Alazzar's Reviews > Lost Boy Lost Girl

Lost Boy Lost Girl by Peter Straub
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Mar 24, 2012

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Read from March 16 to 24, 2012

I’d never read a Peter Straub book before, but I’d always wanted to because I’d heard that Ghost Story was supposed to be pretty darn scary. The only problem with Ghost Story was that it was 567 pages, which is a whole different type of scary when you’ve got the reading speed of a brain-dead koala.

For me, 567 pages is an awfully big commitment to an author I’m not sure I’ll like. So when I went to the library recently and found myself in the Straub section, I pulled out the thinnest book of the bunch and took a look at the back cover. There, I found a glowing review by Neil Gaiman. And, hey—if it’s good enough for Gaiman, it’s good enough for me.

(At least, that’s what I thought.)

First thing’s first: Straub’s writing is good. As in, he knows how to put a sentence together, knows how to describe actions and settings, knows how to write dialogue. If there’s one thing I often complain about in the books I read, it’s stupid choices the author makes in their prose (generally, this tends to come in the form of over-explaining things with unnecessary adverbs and the like—I can’t stand that crap). Thankfully, you’ll find none of those issues with Straub: the dude can write.

So, why the three-star review? Well, for starters, I was expecting a horror novel, and yet there was nothing here I found scary—not even a little. Granted, books rarely give me chills (though it does happen on occasion—The Exorcist, I’m looking at you), but usually with a horror novel I’ll at least get some sense of tension and excitement, which is a fine substitute for fear. In Lost Boy, Lost Girl, unfortunately, I didn’t really find that.

Things were just too . . . comfortable. I was never worried about the characters. It’s possible that I just didn’t like the characters, but no one ever got on my nerves, so I feel more inclined to believe that Straub just never created a feeling of worry. I wasn’t biting my nails, hoping everyone would be okay. I just wasn’t very emotionally invested in the story, though I can’t really explain why. I was interested to see how things turned out, sure, but I didn’t really care what happened to anyone.

The book is more of a murder mystery than a haunted house or ghost story, and yet, it lacks the tension of your standard murder mystery. There were definitely some interesting things that Straub came up with (which I can’t mention here without doing some spoiling), but there were some slow sections as well.

Straub did create a very realistic environment though, and I feel his writing is akin to Stephen King’s in this way. (Mind you, I’ve only read a few King books, but I’m still considering myself an expert on the subject because this is my review and WHO ASKED YOU?) Both authors are very good at making things feel complete—they mention minor details that are not necessary to the plot but make us feel as though we’re looking through a window at a real world, rather than something someone conceived while sitting at a computer or typewriter. That feat, I have to say, deserves some credit.

Of course, this also leads to the major complaint I’ve always had about King’s writing: so much time spent on the little details, so little time spent on the supernatural horror element I came for.

I definitely think Straub is a skilled author, as I do with King. However, that doesn’t make me a fan. It’s just a matter of preference. I respect their ability to create a realistic world, but I’d rather read a book that spends a little more time getting to the point: after all, I’m a firm believer in the idea that you can create a complex and believable character without taking the time to tell us the name of every street he’s walking on. Sorry, but I don’t care that Madison intersects Evergreen just two blocks down from the pharmacy that will never be mentioned again. I really don’t.
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