Top positive review
Human nature is more terrifying than zombies.
Reviewed in the United States on July 29, 2017
At first I thought the author deliberately created parallels to the popular Netflix series Stranger Things, as a way of attracting readers. Three misfit-type teenage boys (In Stranger Things there are four boys.) hang out constantly and have been for several years, playing a game where you can build worlds (In "Disappearance..." it's Mind Craft. In Stranger Things it's Dungeons and Dragons.). One of the boys disappears. The game they play has an underworld (In "Disappearance..." it's the Netherworld. In Stranger Things it's the Upside Down.). They ride their bikes around after dark. The missing boy has a single mother who receives signs from him that others don't. Here the similarities end, though, and until I arrived at a certain point in the story, I had thought they might go on.
Disappearance at Devil's Rock veers off into darker, more disturbing, less fantastical territory. The setting is a place where I've spent a lot of time. I grew up in Easton, MA (called Ames in Tremblay's book) and live here still. Borderland State Park is in Easton, MA, and the author uses the real name of the park, some mostly authentic physical features of the park and its surrounding streets. Consequently, the story haunts me more acutely than it might haunt most readers. Tremblay sends several of the characters along the Pond Trail and I walk that same trail several times a week. His characters also tread along the border of natural and supernatural landscapes. At least three characters cross that border. Two of them cross it and fall down a rabbit hole, only it's a crack in a boulder, not a rabbit hole.
I would give the book five stars, but a lot of the major events and the explanations for them are revealed through the dialogue and diaries of characters whose vocabularies and sentence length and structure lack variety. The author did this deliberately because this is how the teenage characters really communicate, but it slowed down my "page turning" a bit. Most of the book is brilliant and frightening, not because zombies or ghosts are bouncing out of their hiding places after midnight, though. The most frightening concept Tremblay explores is the way people (many people, almost anyone) can face a situation and make the absolute worst decision possible, then act on it whole heartedly. Unfortunately it happens all the time and affects so many lives profoundly. There's no going back after you fall down the crack in that boulder.