Sometimes - very, very rarely - you come across a book that could have been written for you and you alone. Everything about it, from the initial concept to the execution of detail is exactly how you would want it to be, almost as if someone has reached inside your head, pulled out your mental wish-list, and set to work ticking off all the boxes.
For me, one such book is GONE by Michael Grant. Another - perhaps the only other - is CRAWLERS by Sam Enthoven.
A squirm-inducing schlock horror, CRAWLERS tells the story of eight children - four boys and four girls - who find themselves trapped in the Barbican Theatre by a horde of squidgy, slimy spider-like creatures. These horrible little beasties can latch on to a human host, placing the unsuspecting person completely under the control of the spider-creatures' deliciously sinister queen.
Thrown together, the children must overcome their differences as they try to find a way to escape the theatre and avoid becoming slaves to the queen. But as tensions mount so their paranoia begins to grow, threatening to tear the group apart. Only two of the group - Jasmine and Ben - seem to have what it takes to pull the others through the ordeal, and they must do all they can to force the others to listen to them before it's too late.
I read most of the book on the train from Edinburgh to Newcastle. I became so engrossed in the story that I didn't once look up to even glance out of the window. That's because this book is exactly like the creatures featured in its pages - it creeps up on you and sinks it hooks right into you. After that, it has you. Your will is no longer your own, and you must keep reading to find out what happens next.
What I love most about this book is that you can tell how much fun the author, Sam Enthoven, had writing it. I can actually picture him sitting at the desk, cackling excitedly to himself as he came up with increasingly horrific ways in which to torture his cast of characters. He's a sick, sick man, and I for one am eternally grateful for that fact.
Part Alien, part Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 100% flippin' brilliant. Be sure to catch CRAWLERS when it is published in April, because if you don't the Crawlers may well catch you.
Jasmine is a teenage girl from an inner city comprehensive. Driven and determined, she keeps herself apart from the other girls in her school and dreams of a successful future.
Ben is a teenage boy from an expensive private school. Quiet and reserved, he likes horror films and zombies and doesn't really hang out with the rich boys at his school.
They meet at London's Barbican theatre complex where they are each part of school parties there to see a play. But they never see the play.
Unknown to anyone, there's something being kept captive underneath the Barbican. Something old and sinister. A queen who's been waiting for over 300 years to be let out. A queen that can control people's actions - a queen waiting to rule over her subjects.
Sam Enthoven's written a fast-paced, scary rollercoaster of a book that pitches 8 teenagers from vastly different backgrounds into a nightmarish situation where they find themselves locked in the huge Barbican complex with hundreds of adults and children all under the control of a malevolent creature intent on domination. However, the threat from the crawlers is no less dangerous than the threat from the teenagers to each other, as tensions come out within the group - notably between Josh (an overly privileged and hugely arrogant boy) and Samantha (a mouthy girl well used to forcing her will on others). Enthoven handles the group dynamics well and the emergence of a traitor within the group is handled in a way that allows for twists and genuine surprises.
Ben and Lauren are likeable enough protagonists, although the Queen's interest in Lauren and her supposed special qualities feels a little artificial and forced at times. The supporting teenage characters are slightly too broadly drawn to be wholly believable, but again are likeable enough.
Enthoven gives a shout out to a number of big horror names in the acknowledgement to the book - including John Carpenter and H. R Giger and their influence on the book's story and imagery is clear (pleasantly so).
It's not a perfect book - the ending is a bit of anti-climax given the events building up to it. However it is fast-moving, genuinely creepy and uses horror heritage to good effect. It's a book that budding horror fans will probably enjoy.
If you want a horror story that will make you itch, will make you squirm and above all will entertain the reader then you really have to get your hands on this offering by Sam Enthoven. It's got some wicked twists, the story arc is more twisted than a knotted rope and its all topped off with some great characterisation as the reader comes to learn about the enemy within.
A top notch offering and one that will really have this book flying amongst the young readers as word of mouth sings this offerings praises in a world that's overly populated with so much of the same old fiction with this totally new and bizarre offering.