The suburb of Newman, Connecticut, nurtures its upper middle-class clichés. It's a picturesque community that boasts ambitious career-oriented parents and overachieving children. The residents are accustomed to keeping family matters behind closed doors. And their secrets are locked away in high-priced Colonial homes from the eyes and ears of curious outsiders.
Conner and his two best friends, Trevor and Adam, are enjoying their senior year of high school. Competitive and popular, they're focused on academic and athletic successes paving their way to college. But the sudden death of their former friend, Jared, forces them to tackle a new challenge, a growing interest in the unofficial cause of Jared's death: Possession by the devil.
Gossip threatens to reveal secrets. A paranormal investigator arrives in town seeking demons and fame. As media attention mounts, Conner and his friends must confront the rumors head-on to salvage Jared's memory. Then they must accept the reason why they allowed their friendship with Jared to crumble. Because the devil is in the details.
"(An) entertaining friendship tale with elements of horror and suspense.
"The novel’s premise is a strong one, and Renna’s depiction of the teenage characters—particularly the ways they bristle against the perceived expectations of adults—is well executed. The tale marries classic tropes of the exorcism genre with heartfelt issues of adolescence, which provide the story with an unexpected emotional depth."
"Newman, Connecticut is a quaint suburban neighborhood of beautiful colonial homes, upper-middle-class families, and a school district recognized for academic and athletic achievements. Yet something sinister transpired in a house located on Cottage Drive. The community was shocked to learn an alleged exorcism had occurred, resulting in the death of a teenage boy.” In Condemned by Christopher Renna, Jared Smith was a friendly, popular kid but drastically changed after the summer break. He was moody and withdrawn and got into trouble before he was expelled from school for breaking a teacher's thumb. A month later, he was dead. Conner, Trevor, and Adam were Jared's closest friends and they can't rest easy until they find out the truth; what really happened to him?
Condemned has a quite number of characters, a mix of protagonists, and a supporting cast which I found well-developed in their roles. The relationships between Conner, Trevor, and Adam, including their family and main circle of friends, provide a grounded reality that balances out the supernatural animosity that clouds Jared's death. The teens' normal lives of dealing with parents' expectations, school, and college prospect inject levity into an otherwise dark story. Mystery, faith, friendship, and self-discovery are prominent themes in the plot development. The horror element is steadily introduced in a way that builds suspense until it's revealed in a gratifying event filled with determination and retribution. This is an entertaining supernatural tale from Christopher Renna that pays tribute to classic horror such as The Exorcist in its own way.
A taut, unsettling psychological horror…
Seamlessly blending the elements of psychological horror and thriller, Renna crafts a haunting tale of supernatural horror. Jared had always been Connor, Trevor, and Adam’s best friend until he stopped being one. His transformation from a cheerful, friendly teenager to troubled, lonely soul unsettles the trio but they decide to move ahead anyways. But when Jared dies suddenly, leaving vile rumors about him being possessed by the devil, the friends must do everything to get to the bottom of the truth.
Renna’s ability to evoke psychological horror via understatement and foreshadowing combined with his nuanced characterization and skilled worldbuilding keep the reader turning pages. The tension stays ripe with plenty of twists and new revelations unfolding at a steady pace while the uncanny elements and small-town, fantastical setting add to intrigue.
Renna skillfully blends the intricacies of teenager drama with the foreboding mystery of Jared’s tragic death while exploring the themes of anxiety and depression in teens, friendship, and family ties. Fast-paced and breathless, this psychological horror thriller is a must-read.