Take Your Turn Teddy by Haley Newlin
New Degree Press (December 2020)
382 pages; $18.04 paperback; $4.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann
Haley Newlin’s Take Your Turn, Teddy is a dark, psychological horror story exploring the manifestations of early childhood trauma. Newlin uses themes of domestic violence, anxiety, and isolation to create a provocative landscape, The Shadow, for her characters to encounter and battle. A disturbing glimpse of how a broken spirit can unleash powerful demons of the soul. Absolutely captivating, I couldn’t put it down.
Teddy is a young boy — full of life, carefree, and thriving until circumstances and relationships in his life change. The author does an excellent job with Teddy’s POV. Readers will find themselves getting emotionally invested in his life immediately — which makes his trauma all the more intensely felt.
New characters are introduced with a different POV and it does take readers back to square one, but because Newlin has a firm grasp on the human experience, this new protagonist begins to feel just as relatable and familiar as Teddy.
At the heart of this story is the powerful theme of loneliness and the effects of trauma on a young, ill-equipped psyche.
People say “I’m in a dark place” or “He’s going through a dark time” — sayings that tend to lose their meaning with use — but Haley Newlin’s story reminds us that people truly do go through dark periods of isolation, stress, or mental fatigue that weigh heavy on their ability to function normally. The author’s storytelling has this underlying tone of an experienced therapist or psychologist writing the fictional account of a very real situation so many children find themselves in. It made me wonder if she had professional training or some kind of personal interest in the field.
This is a heartbreaking reading experience, but I found that all of the pain and sadness was balanced well by the procedural narrative and investigation of some unsolved murders when Officer Strode shows up.
I recommend this book to people who enjoy smart, well-written, psychological/supernatural thrillers in the same vein as The Outisder by Stephen King or The Ghost Tree by Christina Henry.