In blood as in drought or in poverty or in flame, Oleander was Oleander, and there were still crops to be sown and meth to be harvested, pies to be baked and pigs to be prized, bargains to be hunted and farms to be foreclosed, cherries to be popped and hearts to be broken, worship to be offered and sinners to be shaped.
I didn’t know that The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman existed until the day it was released, and my Twitter feed was flooded with love for it. So many people were telling me to read it that I immediately bought it on my Kindle. What can I say? I’m vulnerable to literary peer pressure.
I’m glad I did it. It’s horror YA (which I now seriously need more of, so send recommendations my way) about Oleander, a small town in Kansas. One day, for reasons no one can understand, twelve people jump right off the deep end, and commit murder-suicides. In Oleander, they call it the killing day – and a year later, when the town is finally starting to heal, a tornado rips through the town and brings the insanity back with it.
Violence rules Oleander, with murder becoming not only common but accepted – particularly when it’s righteous, Old-Testament style. A man suspects his wife of cheating and drags her naked out into the streets to be stoned. Parents beat their gay child near to death and no one blinks an eye. A group of high school jocks turned vigilante seek out anyone breaking the town’s new, barbaric rules – or that they just, you know, hate – and punish them.
Reviews will tell you that if you like Stephen King, you’re going to like The Waking Dark, and I agree. The thing that’s scary about The Waking Dark is not that the town starts committing these awful, inhuman crimes. The scary part is that they’re only showing the darkest part of humanity. Nothing they do is out of the realm of imagination – and if you read Stephen King, you know that’s how he rolls, too.
If you like horror, you need to read this book. And yeah, if you like Stephen King, you really need to read this book.