Shannon's Reviews > The Devouring

The Devouring by Simon Holt
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May 06, 14

bookshelves: reviews, read-in-2009
Read from December 02 to 04, 2009, read count: 1

** spoiler alert ** Read #1
Started on December 2, 2009
Finished on December 4, 2009

I don't mind horror, but I don't read it very often. Like many other reviewers, I was definitely able to recognize the difference between true horror and gross-out horror in this book. I felt some of the scarier parts could be equated to one of those Saw movies -- because those movies are mostly all blood and gore, as was the case with The Devouring. Other reviewers also touched on something I completely agree with: Reggie's a horror buff? So why is she messing with stuff she hasn't the first idea about? That's like... horror movie 101.

I don't feel that the frights in this book are by any means cheesy or B-movie-like because if I was forced to sit and watch a two-hour movie based on it (especially with the ability we have nowadays to create amazing and, at times, quite realistic-looking special effects), I would probably find myself wanting to be sick. Besides that, I can acknowledge that a lot of the scarier parts happened in the mind of Henry -- a kid. What kid wasn't afraid of cliche things when they were little? Clowns, cemeteries, hospitals, being lost somewhere? I know I was afraid of at least some of those things, and I still am. The Vours only took Henry's "child-like" fears and magnified them into something even more twisted and horrifying -- fears you yourself may not find especially original in execution, but to a little boy like Henry who doesn't care how "authentic" the thing scaring him is? I'm willing to bet he's scared out of his wits. Still, I admit... I was actually looking up from the book at times and laughing out loud at how ridiculous and unrealistic some of the scenes were. And then again, who knows how I'd react if a killer clown swinging the decapitated heads of children was chasing after me?

That said, Holt really touches on everything that you might consider frightening: spiders in every form (one particular scene got to me just because of Holt's descriptive writing), drowning, demon children and babies, killer clowns, evil doctors, zombies, corpses, disgusting bugs, fire, dismemberment, body parts, sharp things, blood, gore, and even one particularly horrific scene where Reggie gets her hair hacked off to the scalp (hey, it's a girl's worst nightmare if she has long hair, lol).

The reliance on sheer horror, attempts to scare the reader, and less psychological-induced fears could in and of itself be the book's main downfall. While I didn't dislike any of the characters and I was most definitely sympathetic to them, I didn't feel attached to them. Displaced focus on the horror left me craving more in-depth characters and character bonds.

I didn't rate the book lower only because I could see parts of Holt's writing trying to pull a moral from all the smoke and mirrors that were his fearscapes and terrifying hallucinations. His imagery created with his descriptive prose was intense and brilliantly executed. I might sound a bit hypocritical, but I really loved the atmosphere Holt created at the beginning -- dark and icy with the winter scapes, a town completely devoid of color. It was creepy, but enjoyably so. The opening chapters placed around Christmas gave me a shivery delighted feeling because you normally associate Christmas as a time of happiness, but Holt definitely touches on that other side winter brings when it arrives... cold depression when you're not with family celebrating.

Unfortunately, this is another thing that left me growing tired of the book; the darkness combined with the horror left little for the reader to latch onto in terms of hope. Even though Reggie and her brother, Henry, eventually overcome their fears, because the characters are so hard to connect to, I couldn't find the symbolic "light" in all the dark. I'm not saying I expect everything to be easy for the characters, but it helps to have a balance of horror and hope, something I find severely lacking in this book. I believe you come away from it slightly emotionless because you don't see enough character connection and I think, had Holt somehow brought the dad into the mix at the end and made Reggie show more affection and happiness upon reuniting with Henry, it would've been a step up. As it is, I think the dad and the mother were only there as plot points -- to give Reggie something to throw her anger at and show her sadness at the way her family is crumbling apart. Perhaps the sequel will better resolve these issues and we will finally have closure over Reggie and Henry's mother leaving. Though I still believe the mother was only there to build on Henry and Reggie's character development, it was, however, a wonderful moral that Holt had Henry overcome his fear that he was the one that made his mother leave by making him defeat a Vour version of her. I was definitely able to understand its relevance in Henry finally accepting his mother might never come back, but also that he shouldn't blame himself. And of course for him to find some courage within himself that he can survive without her.

The other thing I liked that Holt's story provoked in me was the idea of how powerful the mind is. Our minds are one in the limited number of things in this world that I feel have mysteries left to be solved about... mysteries that we may never solve. Though it can be debated that we are all predictable when it comes to certain things, we still have the potential to break out of that box. I think it's amazing to know that you need only think of your brain to realize that you are connected to something even more incomprehensible than the furthest regions of the world. It's pretty remarkable.

My favorite thing to do with books whose plots revolve around a mystery that needs unraveling is to try and find out whodunit, lol. I picked either Eben or Quinn, and I am happy to say it turned out they were both involved, though Quinn's intentions were obviously not the best. :) While I appreciated the slight geek vs jocks undertones near the end of the story, I honestly found this to be more of a way to poke fun at how many YA novels nowadays set the heroine no jock would look twice at up with a handsome glamorously popular hero just because it doesn't happen very often in real life. (Maybe I'm just reading in to it too much, haha... or maybe I'm just overly protective of my beloved paranormal romance YA genre.)

When it all comes down to it, to anyone who is like me -- someone who rarely reads horror but still finds it interesting when she does -- this may be a book you'll feel better about checking out from your library instead of buying. I don't regret reading the book, but it's not something I'd read again simply because it's not an easy ride to go through (not in the sense that its not a quick, engrossing read, but that it's dark and not something I'd enjoy for a light read a second time around). If you're a pure, 100% no-limits horror buff, you might actually find this book a little too tame because of the hackneyed scares, lol. But those who enjoy horror will definitely get it here, and they will find a good enough story based around a slightly unique take on the "changeling" myth and a satisfying moral to go along with it.
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Reading Progress

12/02/2009 page 19
8.23% "Yes! A horror book (kind of) for Christmas. And the beginning scene is AROUND Christmas! Even better."
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