Review: Shades by Geoff Cooper and Brian Keene

Shades by Geoff Cooper and Brian Keene
Poltergeist Press (January 2020)
194 pages; $10.99 paperback; $2.99 e-book
Reviewed by Kevin Lucia

By the time I stumbled into the horror scene, Shades was a long-out of print Cemetery Dance title, and I was sad I’d missed the boat. I love coming-of-age stories, and this one looked awesome. Imagine my delight when I learned Poltergeist Press was re-releasing it in paperback and ebook. It went right on the birthday list, and lucky me, it showed up in the mail on that blessed day.

The story didn’t disappoint. Danny is a classic coming-of-age protagonist, frustrated at living in a small nowhere town, and willing to do anything to get out. After his father died, his mother descended into an alcoholic daze, and even though he dreams of a better life somewhere else, he doesn’t really believe he’ll ever enjoy one.

Sometimes coming-of-age protagonists come off as either too innocent or idealistic, or too hard-edged and unlikable. Danny is, in many ways, very believable. His friends aren’t the best kids; in fact, a few of them are bullies. Danny is no saint; he’s probably acted as a bully himself, at times. However, this just heightens his growth as he’s forced to confront a growing supernatural evil—a force which threatens to raise the dead in an insidious plot to overrun and consume the small town of Brackard’s Point.

Also—without giving away too much—the ending proves to be stark and realistic. Another fault of some coming-of-age stories is that however dark or disturbing a tale it may be, everything is wrapped up neatly in the end. Not so with Shades. The ending isn’t nihilistic, soul-crushing, or devoid of meaning. Rather, it’s a realistic, unflinching realization of the consequences of a boy getting entangled with magic. Highly recommended.

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