Review: Bent Heavens by Daniel Kraus

Bent Heavens by Daniel Kraus
Henry Holt and Company (February 2020)
304 pages; $12.39 hardcover; $9.99 e-book
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

Liv is a teenage girl, a high school freshman living with the typical teenage drama that comes with trying to find your crowd, not to mention your own identity. Unfortunately for Liz, she has more than the usual obstacles standing in the way of acceptance and self-confidence; she has to carry the burden of being the daughter of the man who went missing, showed up raving and naked in the middle of town, and then disappeared again.

Liv navigates her life with the “help” of a mother on the path to alcoholism, a group of school friends with whom her connection is tenuous at best, and her lifelong friend Doug, an outcast at school who comes to her house on Sundays to help her check and set the various booby traps her father left behind. She’s not exactly thriving, but she’s holding steady—until the day she and Doug find something caught in one of her father’s traps…one of the things he claimed took him away the first time. From that point on, she and Doug are locked in a spiraling situation that threatens their sanity, their relationship, and their very humanity.

Daniel Kraus has written a sci-fi/horror mashup that’s labeled as YA but is suitable for adults as well. Kraus doesn’t write down to the target audience, digging deep into his characterizations and refusing to shy away from the wet work. There are several scenes that were difficult for your adult reviewer to read because of the blunt manner in which Kraus approaches the events. And while I suspected early on where Kraus was headed with at least one major reveal, it didn’t land any easier when it turned out I was right.

Kraus is on a roll with this release, last October’s Blood Sugar, and the upcoming posthumous collaboration with George A. Romero, The Living Dead. If you’re unfamiliar with his work, Bent Heavens is good place to start.

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