Book Review – A Good and Happy Child

A good friend of mine recently asked me to post some info about books I’ve recently read as well as a little mini-review here. I thought it was a great idea because I love to share what I’m reading, especially if I thought it was really good. I’ve also decided to make an attempt to read 100 books this year. If I read every day I see this as totally achievable, as my last semester of school I read about 24 novels. Two months in, I’m in the middle of my ninth book, so I might need to step it up a little to get there, but I think I’m on the right track.

I’d like to start with the sixth book on my list, A Good and Happy Child, by Justin Evans. This was hands-down one of my favorites I’ve so far. This is Evans’ debut novel, and so wonderful its hard to believe it is his first published work. Booklist had this to say:

Perched precariously on the precipice between horror and psychological drama, Evans’ first novel explores the notions of demons–how real they are and how real we are able to make them. Eleven-year-old George Davies’ father, a self-purported mystic and studier of demonology, dies a mysterious death after traveling to Honduras for equally mysterious purposes. Soon after, George is visited by a “Friend” that only he can see, who leads him on thrilling yet terrifying journeys to a shadowy ether-world, pulling him ever closer to a dangerous awareness of his father’s death (the cornucopia of fatherhood issues emanating here would make Freud’s head wobble). Is the boy really possessed, or simply crazy? And which is better? Evans deftly marks the labyrinthine wards of clinical treatment in stark contrast with scenes of floor-dropping exorcisms as the boy becomes ever more volatile and his Friend ever more diabolical. This is an edgy, compelling read–more unnerving than scary–that will slide its hooks deep inside and throttle you more than a few times before it’s all over.

One of the things I loved most about this books is how it pulls you in, making you feel like you share George’s pain and confusion about what exactly is happening to him. Just as George and many of those around him are never sure what’s happening to him, the reader also can never clearly distinguish between what is actually happening; whether George’s “friend” is a demon or a hallucination.  Similarly, the ending is wonderfully ambiguous. It leaves the reader room to decide if the ending is downbeat and uplifting. The characters were wonderfully vivid, and completely believable. Eleven year-old George’s voice is just as strong as his older counterpart, and even minor characters who appear on only a few pages are strong, vivid, and feel like they have a real story to their lives, as opposed to being stock characters. The only minor hang-up with this otherwise strong plot was that the reason why George can’t remember his childhood traumas is never explained. Perhaps they were repressed memories, which would make sense, but this issue is never explored in explained in the novel. But I whole-heartedly recommend this book, and I’ll definitely be reading Evan’s next novel.

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2 Responses

  1. Thanks for the book review, I’m going to put this on my ‘to-read’ list! I’m not sure if you’re still checking LJ, but I posted this link over there the other day, you should think about joining, if nothing else it would be a cool way to track your 100 books (which I’m jealous you can try, I can barely finish 20 books a year now, stupid grad school).

    http://www.goodreads.com

  2. I loved this book! Evans hooked me early on with strong writing and a creepy enough story that I seriously had to shut my blinds as I read late one night. While it definitely pays tribute to a “type” of genre, “A Good and Happy Child” stands on it’s own with a unique group of characters and twist of events. I highly recommend it as one of my best new author reads this year.

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