Nancy Oakes's Reviews > Disappearance at Devil's Rock

Disappearance at Devil's Rock by Paul Tremblay
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bookshelves: arc, crime-fiction

I seriously believe that I must have been the only person on this planet who wasn't a huge fan of Tremblay's first book A Head Full of Ghosts. This one, Disappearance at Devil's Rock, while not perfect, was much more to my liking. Let's just get this out of the way up front -- I am not a huge fan of what I call "teencentric" novels so I didn't love this book. However, to be very fair, it turns out when all is said and done to be suspenseful, atmospheric and tragic all at the same time. Aside from the elements of mystery and suspense, it also reflects the emotional devastation of a family suffering from loss and what they do to cope.

Just to add a bit to the back-cover blurb:

A scenario that is frightening for any parent starts this novel, with a phone call at 1:28 a.m. at the Sanderson home. There is much truth in the statement "No good news ever calls after midnight," and in this case, the news is beyond bad. It seems that Elizabeth Sanderson's son Tommy, age 13, has gone missing. He'd been staying overnight at the home of Josh Griffin, one of his two best friends, but now he's simply vanished into the woods of Borderland, a park whose edges are very close to Josh's home. Along with their friend Luis, they'd taken their bikes to the park a number of times, hanging out at Split Rock which local kids refer to as Devil's Rock, doing typical boy stuff -- joking around, fantasizing about zombies, talking about the Minecraft world they'd created, etc. -- just regular things that signal nothing out of the ordinary for these kids. A search is launched based on what Josh and Luis (the third member of this trio of friends) reveal about that night, but as time moves on the case drags with no results. Elizabeth, of course, is devastated, along with her young daughter Kate and her mother, riddled with guilt and missing Tommy enough to where she begins to actually imagine his presence in their home. At this juncture, we would seem to be reading an ordinary story of a child's disappearance, but then the author does something very cool here, introducing some really weird phenomena that help to ratchet up the tension bit by bit. Taken together, these events begin to call into question not only the other boys' version of events of the night of Tommy's disappearance at Devil's Rock, but to Elizabeth's surprise, they also reveal something about Tommy's state of mind about the earlier loss of his father. That's all I'm willing to divulge because what happens until we get to the truth of things is so bizarre and so strange that telling would certainly wreck things.

Disappearance at Devil's Rock is a slow burner of a story where the action sort of happens in waves. In between the events that take place at Elizabeth's house, in between Elizabeth's grieving and trying to hold things together for her family, we are made privy via flashbacks to little bits and pieces of the days leading up to Tommy's disappearance. This is a good move, and I like this sort of piecemeal approach to the truth, because really, it tends to raise a lot of questions in my mind. Including the bit about the Fox News commentators (and social media) was also a good move, because as everyone knows, ignorant people pointing fingers instead of offering anything in the way of sympathy or help is what news media and internet trolls are good at, and sadly they are a part of everyday life these days. Really, there are a number of good moments here, but then there are also places where I had issues. For example, sometimes the boys' conversations got old and repetitive to the point of sheer boredom. I was so sick of the word "hardo" after a while -- I get that the author is writing teen boys here, but less would have been so much more. I also didn't care for the way he wrote Kate -- the spunky, fearless little sister bit didn't quite work for me. And, after certain revelations about the strange occurrences in the family home, the story sort of dragged along until the last part of the novel when boom - things pick up in a big hurry at which point everything pops to end in a satisfying way.

The bottom line is that I have mixed feelings about this one. I'll just say that while I found it a bit flawed writingwise and too much on the edge of becoming a YA novel for my taste, the mystery at its core is pretty good and satisfyingly (and tragically) resolved. Once again, I feel like the fish swimming upstream because this novel is getting uber-rave reviews, but well, it is what it is.
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Reading Progress

May 23, 2016 – Shelved
May 23, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
May 23, 2016 – Shelved as: arc
June 21, 2016 – Started Reading
June 21, 2016 –
page 134
40.98%
June 21, 2016 –
page 336
100% "The last part of this novel saved this book."
June 21, 2016 – Finished Reading
June 24, 2016 – Shelved as: crime-fiction

Comments Showing 1-12 of 12 (12 new)

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David Are you giving this one away?


Nancy Oakes David wrote: "Are you giving this one away?"

Definitely. I always try to pass along review copies. If you want it, it's yours for the price of a home address. (Via Private message).


David Sent. Thank you!!


message 4: by Sirensongs (new)

Sirensongs You're not alone in your reaction to A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS. After all the rave reviews I was rather disappointed in it and couldn't help but wonder if there was something I was missing. Still on the fence about giving this one a go... Probably won't, based on your review. I don't think I could take all those "hardos", for one thing!


message 5: by Nancy (last edited Jun 25, 2016 06:56AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nancy Oakes Serious groan. The boyspeak got really, really old after a while, and at one point I said to no one "if I see the word "hardo" one more time I'm going to scream." And guess what? I screamed. But I will say he did provide a good mystery here -- so let's call it a summer beach-bag book.


Linda Great review. I agree with your assessment.


Nancy Oakes Linda wrote: "Great review. I agree with your assessment."

I saw that one of the GR horror groups is reading it -- I didn't think it was "horror" per se, but more of a mystery story. Horrific things happen but it's definitely not horror.


Linda I have a "horror" category for GR and I didn't put this book into it. I don't think it's really horror either. I probably would've enjoyed it more if it had contained additional or better horror elements.


message 9: by Eva (new) - rated it 3 stars

Eva Great review! Agree with all your points - except that I actually liked Head full of ghosts! But I felt Tremblay was trying to use the same formula again: the ambiguity between what's real and what's supernatural, the different POVs - here it are diary entries and in HFoG it were blog entries -, and the many references to the manifold adaptations of the exorcism genre in pop culture in HFoG are mirrored in the Zombie genre references in Devil's Rock. For me the strongest part of the book was towards the end, when the main character starts reading the transcripts.


Nancy Oakes Eva wrote: "Great review! Agree with all your points - except that I actually liked Head full of ghosts! But I felt Tremblay was trying to use the same formula again: the ambiguity between what's real and what..."

That part of this book (the reading of the transcripts at the end) was done very well. If he could have maintained that sort of writing momentum throughout the entirety of this novel, it would have been much better and would have come off less like a YA novel. I like when authors put pop culture under the microscope (especially social media), but really, for me it's all about the writing, and he hasn't quite convinced me yet.


Paula You are NOT the only one who was not thrilled with "Head Full of Ghosts." I was incredibly disappointed in that one, and even moreso in this one. I am done with Tremblay. I find his stories neither horrific NOR even suspenseful.


Nancy Oakes Paula wrote: "You are NOT the only one who was not thrilled with "Head Full of Ghosts." I was incredibly disappointed in that one, and even moreso in this one. I am done with Tremblay. I find his stories neither..."

I always feel better when I'm not the only fish swimming upstream.


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