This is a rare YA book from Ragnarok Publishing.
I am not entirely sure why they don’t publish more novels suitable for Young Adult, but I do know exactly why I don’t often read in the genre: there is a fundamental dishonesty in some of those books, they’ve been sanitized, and they try to fit the mold of what they think teenagers want to read. Often this succeeds, but it doesn’t make for entertaining reading. When I was a teenager, some of us were swearing, some of us were getting high behind the gas station at lunch, and some of us were exploring our sexualities with actual real live people. Not much of that happens in YA, and not only is that dishonest, but it’s boring.
Samuel Sattin has written The Silent End for teenagers who are actually teenagers, and not blocky goody two-shoes. From the back copy, I could tell that this was going to be a little deeper, and a little more wistful than the average book aimed for teenagers.
In a mist-covered town in the Pacific Northwest, three teenagers find themselves pitted against an unearthly menace that dwells beneath the foundations of their high school…
Eberstark is an outcast and he’s tired of pretending everything is fine. His mother disappeared almost a year ago after a long battle with depression. His father is conducting experiments and running around town in the middle of night with a mysterious man known only as The Hat, ranting to Eberstark about beasts no one else can see.
Then, on Halloween night, Eberstark, alongside his only friends Lexi and Gus, discovers something in the woods to challenge the notion of his father’s apparent insanity: a wounded monster. Rather than stir the town into a frenzy, the three friends hide the creature and are pulled into a web of conspiracy, dream-logic, and death. Faced down by living trucks, mirror-dwelling psychopaths, and hellish entities who lurk behind friendly faces, Eberstark, Lexi, and Gus find themselves battling to save not just themselves, but the soul of their quiet little town.
Sattin’s particular talent (at least in this book) is tone, followed swiftly by character development. The novel is set in the Pacific Northwest, and somehow his word choice conveys that his characters live in a rain-drenched world, and they see the sun but rarely. There are no turns of phrase that would belong in a book set in Fresno, California, or Mexico City. Here, the setting fits the story, for the story is deeply melancholy, a little frightening, and a lot of the plot remains obscured for a good chunk of the novel.
The characters are extremely well thought out. It’s a book set in a small town, so it can’t really get away with having anonymous store owners, teachers, or kids the main character knows personally. Everyone mentioned has just enough detail that I wonder if Sattin created a comprehensive map and filled it in with details of every single citizen before he even started writing. It has that kind of realism.
The rest of it is not so realistic. The back cover copy advertises dream logic, and that is an understatement. As we get deeper and deeper into the book, we begin to see that there is this miasma of unreality that settled over the town long ago, and it’s just now being noticed. The main character, Eberstark, has had these perceptions of people (his friend’s father, his mother, etc.) that first read as — here’s another slightly depressed grown-up. It’s sad, but normal. And then… the mist starts drifting away, and things like depression or inertia become a hell of a lot more sinister.
This book is worth reading, if only for the shivers.