Book Review: “The Waking Dark” by Robin Wasserman

The story begins quite promisingly: A small town in the Midwest, on a hot summer day, when suddenly five seemingly-normal people in town commit senseless bloody murders (some singular, some multiple, all but one murder-suicides). Only one of the murderers survives; she’s locked up in an insane asylum.

The story is told through the POVs of a couple of teenagers (not the popular ones) in town, from different classes of society, and seems to be doing a good job of exploring what the various teens are feeling and thinking in reaction to the murders. Sounds like a story that’s going somewhere, with something to say.

Oh, and the town was built on the site of a town of the same name that was burnt to the ground and all 1100+ people in it were killed. That (and maybe the general tone) must have been what one of the advance reviewers meant when he likened it to Stephen King.

Then suddenly the town is surrounded by the US military, all communication with the outside world cutoff, they’re fed some kind of story about something toxic and/or infectious nearby that leaked, etc. Oh, and the mayor’s specifically been handed absolute power – “Do anything you want,” says the Army colonel in charge of the quarantine. And the mayor’s named the high school football team (a bunch of drunken hooligans) as volunteer deputies who’ll be patrolling the town (before this, they’ve been built up as real threats to gang rape one of the POV characters) … Oh, and there’s more than traces of some fundamentalist religious crazies in there, too.

And the story proceeds to wander away from its originality into cliched formula …

I don’t usually give up on a book once I start reading it. I might decide not to read it after I’ve checked it out of the library, but once I start reading, I usually finish. But, sorry, I got to page 122 (hard back library edition), and quit.

I wish the author had written the story she had going before she lost her way.

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