I received this book for free from the Author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Inferno Park by J.L. Bryan
on August 11, 2014
Genres: Coming of Age, Death & Dying, Horror, Horror & Ghost Stories, Occult & Supernatural, Paranormal, Survival Stories, Suspense, Young Adult
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Carter was only twelve when he witnessed the disaster that killed more than a hundred people at Starland Amusement Park. Five years later, Carter’s hometown is no longer a busy Florida panhandle resort, but a slowly dying town full of empty motels and attractions rusting behind chains and padlocks.
Now something evil stirs in the ruins of the old amusement park...something with an alluring siren song drawing visitors into the dark mysteries of the forbidden world behind the gate. Something with an appetite for restless, yearning souls.
Carter reluctantly returns to the old park in the company of a new girl in town, who is obsessed with urban decay and pop-culture ruins, and discovers the evil at work. To stop it, and protect the children of the town, Carter will have to face his oldest and deepest fears.
Nothing says summer to me like amusement parks. My father would gather up my sister and I, and we’d make the trek to Six Flags, either to the one in St. Louis or to Great America in Gurnee. Even with the long drive from our small hometown in the middle of Illinois and walking around in the heat all day going from ride to ride, coaster to coaster, I remember always having a ton of fun or always coming home with some sort of souvenir. J.L. Bryan has masterfully captured this childhood fun and innocence, the particular sort of summer essence that a town relied on for it’s prosperity and ripped it to shreds with one natural disaster in Inferno Park.
Carter was twelve years old and inside Starland Amusement Park with his best friend Jared and his crush Tricia when the sink hole opened up in the middle of the Park. More than a hundred people died in the disaster, and Carter and Jared were lucky enough to make it out alive. But Tricia died on the Inferno Mountain roller coaster–the one ride that Carter has always been afraid of, and the one that he chickened out of sitting next to her at the last second as the front car was loading and about to take off down the rails.
Carter should be dead like Tricia, and this gives still him nightmares five years later. The town of Conch City used to be a bustling city on the beach, prosperous with revenue from tourists visiting Starland Amusement Park and the smaller boardwalk attractions–like Carter’s family owned go-cart track. But everything has been slowly drying up since the sinkhole disaster and the closing of the park, and the city has more people moving out than in. But a new family does move to town and this new girl–who’s interested in photographing decaying places–attracts Carter’s attention and eventually gets him to bring her to Starland. What looks like a rusting, dirty, dangerous old amusement park through the chain link fence is something quite different and alluring once they breach the perimeter. Going into this hauntingly painful place for Carter is a big mistake, but what will the cost be to all who enter?
Once kids start to go missing from Conch City, Carter decides to investigate the old amusement park after his new friend Victoria puts some pressure on him. He puts his own fears aside to help these other kids, and that’s what I really love about him. He’s trying really hard to make a better life for himself by studying hard, staying out of trouble, and preparing for college. But he’s never forgotten the loss of Tricia or how the sink hole has taken a heavy toll on his family. When he has to face his biggest fears and an even bigger evil in the park, he doesn’t back down–even when it looks like it’s the end of the line for him.
Victoria and the rest of the teenagers in this book were quite realistically written, along with Carter. They all made dumb mistakes and acted like regular people, so J.L. Bryan definitely hit the mark right there. And the horror/gore level is pretty high here and I loved every second of it. A good portion of the book has a group of teenagers exploring the park, and there isn’t a better way than to pick them off one by one. And they are certainly taken care of inventively and with descriptive writing.
I give Inferno Park a five out of five. Seriously, this book is in the top five that I’ve read this year, and it is easily my favorite horror novel that J.L. Bryan has written so far. You get a well rounded story with fleshed out (and defleshed) characters that are distinct and move the story forward. The ghosts and monsters in this one are evil, scary, and vindictive, but the ultimate evil was quite clever and smart. I really enjoyed this jaunt through childhood memories of amusement parks and carnivals, growing up and moving on, making the most of the crappy hand that you’re dealt. Definitely grab a copy of this if you’re a fan of horror or slasher films, but especially if you’re into novels that make you sit on the edge of your seat waiting to see who’s going to die next.
Author J.L. Bryan has a giveaway running over on Goodreads until October 1, 2014 for a copy of Inferno Park.