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Three stars for THE WAKING DARK!

September 05, 2013

★ It’s Lord of the Flies on steroids! One strange day twelve people are murdered, all by relatives, friends, or neighbors—the most unlikely of suspects. None, including 18-year-old Cass who murdered the toddler she was babysitting, knows why. Soon after, a terrible tornado ravages the town and removes all semblances of law and order. Anarchy rules; far too many adults and role models revert to their base-est instincts. An unlikely band of teens reluctantly joins forces to plot escape: Jules, part of the meth-dealer Prevette clan; West, golden boy (but gay) football jock; sweet, unassuming Daniel; Ellie King, self-prescribed evangelist dubbed saint by the Deacon during the strange times; Cass; and Gracie, the sister of the murdered toddler. The Waking Dark is a horror story worthy of Stephen King. Wasserman’s tightly woven plot arouses our darkest fears—a government (or private industry) experimenting on its citizens, contemporary witch hunts that remind us of our Puritan heritage, natural disasters that destroy basic infrastructure including communication systems. Her characters are anti-heroes, seeking to hold themselves in check, fearing that they, or anyone around them, can suddenly become the monster they are trying to escape. It’s a violent, edgy, well-written, and foreboding novel, so realistic that readers can only hope it’s simply fiction.- Booklist 

★ Wasserman (The Book of Blood and Shadow) delivers an exceptional horror novel that will lead to inevitable (and deserved) Stephen King comparisons. In the isolated Kansas town of Oleander, five people suddenly go on murder sprees, with four of them committing suicide. A year later, five survivors are united when a storm (and later, soldiers) isolate the town: loner Daniel, closeted jock West, newly evangelical Ellie, outcast Jule, and Cassie—the one remaining murderer, who has no recollection of what she did or why. As the days pass, the five grow increasingly aware that everyone else in Oleander is starting to act strange. The characters’ own conflicts—Jule’s family deals meth, West’s parents are homophobic, etc.—help fuel the tension until the insanity really takes over. While the plot isn’t new (see either version of The Crazies), Wasserman juggles a huge cast, intense action, and some truly horrific moments with style and skill. The novel works just as well as mainstream horror as YA, and the ending is both effective and brutal. Ages 14–up. Agent: Barry Goldblatt, Barry Goldblatt Literary. (Sept.) – Publishers Weekly

★ This contemporary thriller opens on an ordinary Tuesday afternoon in a small town in Kansas, when five people with no connection to one another inexplicably commit murders and then kill, or attempt to kill, themselves. This becomes known as “the killing day,” and no one has an explanation for it. The dark story is told from the perspectives of five teenagers, each of whom suffers in a different way due to the crimes, but it’s nearly a year before their linked lives truly converge. After a devastating tornado, the entire town is quarantined and the adults are descending into violent madness. The five teens seem to be the only ones who realize something terrible is happening; they struggle both to stay alive and unravel what’s really going on and who is responsible. While the number of protagonists can be confusing at times, their alternating stories are all compelling. Great dialogue and intriguing subplots add to the action-packed story, which will have readers frantically flipping pages. Wasserman sustains a truly spooky mood throughout, and the suspense doesn’t let up until the final pages.–Sunnie Lovelace, Wallingford Public Library, CT – School Library Journal