Theme: atonement and restoration are at the heart of this story
The Nitty Gritty: A teenage boy learns the town secret, which leads to a number of mistakes and bizarre events that threaten the future of some characters, and the lives of others.
Ideal Audience: Horror fans will appreciate this book. It could be considered a YA novel, because it follows the perspective of a 15-year-old, but adult horror fans will also enjoy it.
Strengths: This story uses a straightforward narrative that pulls you in and keeps you turning the pages. And while many horror stories have characters that make stupid mistakes and fumble the use of that trope, Stred makes it credible. I didn’t see it as a trope, but rather an organic, logical consequence of a 15-year-old boy’s Gramps showing him something he shouldn’t have seen. Although this work is set back before man set foot on the moon, in a much simpler time, teenagers were not adults and did not have the life experience needed to guide their choices. Teenagers are impulsive, and we have no difficulty believing in the choices that follow Gramps’ bad decision.
The other thing I found interesting about the choice Gramps made was that he presumed he had the right to make it. In this era, people are more likely to tell grandparents to butt out of decisions about how to raise a child. In the period the story is set in, it’s hardly surprising a grandparent would take actions they felt were appropriate.
And in a way, you could argue that Gramps’ conduct parallels the protagonist’s, because they both make mistakes that have serious consequences. In Gramps case, he knew he was breaking the rules and did it anyway.
I found the story concept fascinating, and there are just enough details given to keep you intrigued and engaged right to the end. This was a blisteringly quick read that was just what I needed when I picked it up, and I look forward to reading more by Stred.
Weaknesses: There are some minor mechanical issues with punctuation, which could be an issue for technical purists (it feels weird saying it, because even most hardcovers I’ve read this year have had a few typos). I’m personally not a fan of heavily forecasting upcoming events in the story, and that technique is used a lot throughout The Window in the Ground, but in this story it worked for me.