What if the kids that your son plays with on a computer game, matches the names of the kids that are already going missing and killed by a serial killer?
After reading the premise above in the synopsis, I just couldn’t help myself. It’s a must read for me when something is this intriguing and mysterious.
1-Sentence Summary. A family who just moved to a new town in North Carolina found that everything is going increasingly horrible for them, with the most worrying incident that their son is playing with his imaginary friends whose names all match the kids who went missing and killed by a serial killer.
Why I Picked it Up. Aside from the mysterious storyline, I mainly picked it up because I was in the mood to read Orson Scott Card’s writing (the author). In fact, I travelled overseas, all the way to Bangkok (again) to get to Dasa Bookstore for this – because it was the only place in the world I know that stocks the most Orson Scott Card’s classics!
Why It’s A Gem
- HIGHLIGHTS THE GREY AREAS IN PARENTING. I was quite surprised to find that instead of a game-adventure story, what I got was a book about parenting and marriage management. The author weaves in so many ethical or moral questions that we will be facing when we’re parents. Here’s a ‘lighter’ scenario presented in the book just to illustrate this point better:
What do you do when your child is bullied at school?
- If you report to the teachers, the bullying will get worse.
- If you intervene, then you’re kind of robbing him the learning experience of being independent and fighting for himself.
- But if you don’t intervene, he will continue crying at home and you just can’t stand seeing him hurt so much anymore.
So… what do you do? Because either way, no one wins, right?
AN EERIE CONTEMPORARY. For the time of its writing, it is considered as a contemporary book, and is mostly about real life situations. But the eerie part comes from the fact that so many of the characters around these parents are… quite borderline psychos, to say the very least. And all of these creepy supporting characters have the power to destroy the whole family with just one decision. Regardless whether it’s neighbours, community support, colleagues, landlords etc, everybody has a twisted heart and twisted ways of doing things – and they’ve all got motives to hurt the family. For a contemporary, it got me on the edge of my seat , so scared for the family and screaming out unconsciously, “No, no please don’t let this happen, please!”
- A VARIETY OF INTERESTING CHARACTERS AND MINDSETS. So as per the above, I’ve already stated that there were a lot of extreme characters around them. What this does is that the book also supplies us with the possible different ways of doing things. Hence, teaching us, that with a lot of ‘grey’ areas in life, maybe there really is no “Right” way of doing things. Because at the end of the day, we do what we think is right, and it depends very heavily on our mindset. For example, some parents needed to be protective and helicopter over their kids all the time, making their kids very dependent on them. While some parents just leave their kids be, regardless if they climbed up very high on a tree and fell down, getting hurt. Which parent is correct? The answer, both parents are correct. It all depends on the mindset. To each, their own, right?
Why It Can Be A Rock
- MAIN STORYLINE COULD HAVE BEEN FLESHED OUT MORE. Although it is a good thing that the author had a lot of supporting characters to feature various moral and ethical dilemmas for the readers, it also limits the amount of time that could have been spent to further portray the main storyline – of their child having friends whose names are of the missing kids. This was quite disappointing for me as I picked up this book mainly for this story arc. Now, this could have been a deliberate method by the author though, as he had subtle hints of the main story’s development running in the background, while we are being directed through all of the supporting storylines with the other characters. I’ve got to admit, this method got me wanting to re-read the book again, to piece together all of the small hints that were given in the background to further understand the main story.
As A Reading Panda, I’d Give It :
(8 out of my 10 bamboos)
It has been a very long time since I got pretty emotional over a book. It got me on the edge of my seat with all the action and politics of the characters, I would unconsciously react, “No, please don’t.” or “You don’t understand! He needs to do this and you don’t understand!” I did not realize I was saying those words out loud though, which was embarrassing when you’re reading in public.
So yes, this is a book that got a lot of emotions out of me – joy, happiness, anguish, anger, scared, surprised, traumatized, clueless, sad… I even legitly cried at the end of the book (which I almost never cry from reading a book in my life).
This is probably the author’s most underrated book yet, in my opinion (as he is mostly known for writing sci-fi). Although he is my favourite author of all-time, I acknowledge that he has plenty of limitations – he doesn’t seem to be very good in writing emotions, and his characters were always stiltedly intelligent, which is a unique charm that I like a lot, even though I know it is his fatal flaw.
I am very proud to be proven wrong though with this book. To know that my favourite Orson Scott Card have written at least one contemporary fiction that successfully extracted so many genuine feelings from my heart – and it is a parenting book at that, a territory that very few authors even thread on!
“… Stevie was now old enough that he would remember everything that happened… He would remember how Dad reacted when Betsy threw up, how Dad didn’t swear or get mad or anything, how Dad helped helped clean up the mess instead of standing there helplessly while Mom took care of it.” – Step Fletcher (page 8)
“You broke into the code.” – Step Fletcher. “I like to use the game as a screen saver, because everything shifts on it. But level 20 has the prettiest colours.” – Gallowglass. “That was protected six-ways from Tuesday.” – Step Fletcher. “Yeah, well, it was a ten-minute job to break the scheme and another hour to disassemble the code.” – Gallowglass (page 44)
“We’ve given our children a wonderful variety of strangeness, just as we planned. But at the same time, we’ve deprived them of a sense of belonging where they live. They’re foreigners here. We’re foreigners here. I am a stranger, and this is a strange, strange land.” – DeAnne Fletcher (page 54)
“Take a picture of me and tell them I’m a miserable rotten husband who has never made it home in time for dinner in the whole time he’s worked for Eight Bits Inc.” – Step Fletcher (page 75)
“… they had decided years ago that they would never hint at disagreement between them on decisions dealing with all the children, so that they’d never get the idea that they could play one parent off against the other.” – Orson Scott Card (page 88)
“So no matter what we do, we’re probably wrong.” – DeAnne Fletcher. ” No, DeAnne, don’t think of it that way. think of it that no matter what we do, as long as we’re trying to do our very best for our kids, it will work out.” – Jenny Cowper (page 233)
“You trusted me, and it worked out. I’d say that gives you the hero-of-the-morning medal.” – Step Fletcher. “No it doesn’t. Not after the way I talked to you in the kitchen.” – DeAnne Fletcher. “Nothing that anybody says on the same day they find five hundred thousand june bugs staring at them through the kitchen windows is allowed to count against them. Now give me a kiss before I go to work because my ride is outside.” – Step Fletcher (page 319)
“Here she is declaring that anybody who believes in a religion is marginally or totally insane – I mean, that’s most of human society through most of history.” – DeAnne Fletcher. “Yes. But maybe true sanity didn’t exist until people like her emerged.” – Step Fletcher (page 410)
“Cause we don’t care if they’re mean to Zap, because we’re going to walk to school with him anyway! And we’re going to walk right with him and not cross the street without him because then he’d be scared!” – Robbie Fletcher (page 456)
“I think Aunt Ella was the smartest one, even if she was retarded. Cause all she cared about was that Grandma Sal was crying. She didn’t get mad at the bad kids, she just tried to make Grandma Sal feel better.” – Stevie Fletcher (page 456)