I knew the day would come when I would finally be able to say that I did not finish a book. I am usually quite determined to finish a book I start, and I made it 68% of the way through this one, so I feel like I read enough of it to write a review, but I could not finish it.
The Crooked Boy is supposed to be a horror genre book about a group of teenagers that enter an abandoned insane asylum to go ghost hunting. One of the boys is murdered by a dark entity living in the asylum. Months later, the entity starts terrorizing the remaining group, for reasons unknown. The Good Reads synopsis reads as follows:
A group of apparently close-knit friends venture to an abandoned hospital for a scare, but when things go wrong – terribly wrong – as soon as the night begins, the kids receive more than what they asked for, and when one of the teenagers is murdered, they put into motion a domino effect of supernatural horror, led by an evil older than humankind itself…a sleeping evil that was put to sleep for a reason. Its name: the Lord of the Flies.
From the synopsis, I was to assume that the entire story would take place within the insane asylum. I imagined a horror movie type setting where the kids try to survive with flashlights and cameras inside the walls of the abandoned building. What I got was a confusing, jumbled story taking place several months later.
The story begins with the group of teenagers (Charlie, Chloe, Josh, and Matt) being driven to the asylum by one of the group’s older brother (Chloe’s brother Gilbert). He is speeding in dangerous weather and winds up hitting another car and killing the driver. The brother flees the scene because he doesn’t have insurance (what? really?) and leaves the group of teenagers behind. Chloe, Matt, and Josh leave Charlie behind at the scene to make a run for the asylum.
Two police officers show up and begin to arrest Charlie when a flock of crows (yes, crows) begins to attack them. Charlie gets away, only to be chased down by a huge, black wolf. He makes it in to the asylum, with his friends, and they decided to find a windowless room to try to sleep in to take shelter from the cold. Charlie awakes from a terrifying nightmare and hears a door slam somewhere in the building. He decides to investigate and begins pulling wallpaper off the walls in the room with the slammed door, and finds writing written in blood.
He gets the bright idea to use the Ouija board with his friends inside the room after hearing a boy’s voice. After their Ouija conversation is cut short, terrifying things begin to happen, ending with Charlie’s death. Months later, after Charlie’s body disappears, and a court date for the death of the missing driver and car (yes, both bodies, and the mangled car magically disappeared), it is determined that the responding officers did not recall meeting the kids or showing up to the scene, and that the teenagers were to be placed under house arrest and required therapy.
It is when the house arrest sentence is up that the entity tries to kill Chloe, forging a suicide note in her hand. The entity also pays a visit to one of the officers, Robby Wildrow. Officer Wildrow happens to be the attending officer to Chloe’s case, so, naturally, they figure out that they have something in common, and decide to start investigating the asylum together.
They figure out that there was a fire in the building back in 1985 that each newspaper had a different story about. The remaining staff that made it out of the fire have all died at this point from unusual deaths, and the relative of one of those staff members targets the pair, steals the photographs that they have acquired during research, and kidnaps Chloe. When Robby goes to save her, somehow the house blows up, and Chloe ends up in a coma.
It is here that the story switches points of view to Matt. It is also here that I had finally had enough of the story and decided to stop reading. Here are my reasons for deciding to not finish the book:
The story started taking unusual, nonsensical twists from the beginning. The entity only seemed interested in Charlie until his death, and then, suddenly, after months of no activity, it decides to terrorize Chloe, and only after she is put in to a coma does it decide to go after another character. The history of the asylum did not explain what the entity was or where it came from, and the occurrences in the asylum during 1985 were outrageous and unbelievable and were supposedly never reported as they were happening. The story digressed too many times, and for too long each time, with character flashbacks that didn’t quite fit, one flashback lasted several pages and never made it’s point of comparison to a current character as promised. The flashbacks were often hard to differentiate from the main story too. And, finally, the last straw was the flashback Matt has while standing in the middle of a sewer tunnel, setting off cherry bombs with his new friends, involving a wild, drunken, public sex act at a party full of 16 year old kids.
Kudos to you if you have made it this far in to the review. I really wanted to enjoy this book. I kept reading because there were a few things that made me want to know more. At one point, we find out that the father of the boy that was murdered at the beginning, Charlie, was a patient in 1985. The fact that each newspaper from that year had a different story about the fire that closed down the building was intriguing, and the imagery used with some of the gory details was horrific enough. Those few points kept me reading until the confusing shift to Matt and his unnecessary, disgusting flashback. By then the negatives had stacked up so high that that scene finally topped the list for me, so I would definitely not recommend this book and I will not be finishing it.
Thank you to NetGalley and Black Rose Publishing for providing me with this free e-copy for my honest opinion.