Review: The Loop by Jeremy Robert Johnson

cover of The Loop by Jeremy Robert JohnsonThe Loop by Jeremy Robert Johnson
Saga Press (September 29, 2020)

320 pages; $26.99 paperback; $9.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie Hartmann

You know, if I didn’t have to sleep, eat, or tend to the family during this stay-at-home order, I would have sat and read this one straight through. This book is everything.

Cue some strange intro music like the eerie riffs from X-Files or the digital notes of that synthesized melody from Stranger Things and settle into this binge-worthy genre mashup. Best known for his bizarro-horror style and flavor, Jeremy Robert Johnson is an unexpected hero for the coming-of-age conspiracy thriller genre.

Wait, is that a genre, or did JRJ just invent it?

In any event, this book covers a lot of ground and offers something for everyone: A strong, female protagonist named Lucy; witty (hilarious) sidekick besties, Brewer and Bucket; and a rocket-fueled storyline about a biologically engineered virus leaked from a lab and wreaking havoc in a small, rural town in the Pacific Northwest. There’s even a likable radio personality known as the Nightwatchman that gave me strong Pump Up the Volume vibes. Do you remember that movie with Christian Slater? Well I do.  One of my favorite aspects of Johnson’s writing is the way everything is stylistically cinematic to read like a cult-classic from a familiar era (definitely the late ‘80s to mid-’90s).

But wait! That’s not all!

Given that this is a Jeremy Robert Johnson novel, readers can expect thoughtfully executed social commentary—primarily race and class. I enjoyed how Johnson utilized tension between kids from middle class families and the privilege that rich kids enjoy. Folded into this tension is Johnson’s natural-born talent for wit and sarcasm as well as his flair for spot-on pop culture references—a trifecta of storytelling gifts that Johnson’s fanbase has come to expect from his books.

On that note, this is where I recommend JRJ’s collection of stories, Entropy in Bloom. The Loop showcases his talent for breathing authenticity into his characters through realistic dialog and meaningful relationships in a way that I have seen in his short story work but is fully realized in this novel.

The Loop is a unique creation capable of melting even the hardest hearts. I dare you not to feel your feelings. This is a favorite book of 2020 for sure, and possibly my new favorite book of Johnson’s.

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