"I can show you how to enter the Narrows to find what you seek."
Oliver and his friends have returned to their hometown of Shumard, Texas for the funeral of their close friend Noah. They each grapple with the loss in their own ways, trying to understand the strange circumstances of their friend's unexpected death.
While visiting the site where the body was found, Oliver stumbles across a chilling discovery that he knows must be related to what happened to Noah. Wanting to protect his friends from these newfound horrors, Oliver takes it upon himself to venture into the grotesque otherworld known as the Narrows to learn what happened to his friend and find a way to bring him back.
Entering the Narrows is one thing, but will whatever he finds there allow him to leave?
The Narrows is a spooky little horror story that combines a myriad of components to create a compelling, imaginative, and highly entertaining story. This is a great book to read for the Halloween and holiday reading period, as it has a wonderfully mysterious atmosphere that pervades the entire book as well as contains that post-holiday feeling of indifference that we all know and expect.
My favorite thing about Riddle's writing is how he slowly feeds information about the characters and the plot in small, essential doses--it's just enough to prompt you to understand something or cause you to ask more questions, which in turn makes for a book that is impossible to put down. He's also so a master at writing characters that I actively wanted to hear more about, including their background and minute details about them.
The horror aspect was done really well. It was more of a quiet spookiness for the majority of the story, rather than something blatantly and obviously horrifying. There were, of course, some very overt and outrageous moments, but the rest of the time was more about wondering about the unknown and trying to figure out just what sort of crazy things were happening to Oliver and the town of Shumard.
As much as I loved the main horror plot, the other main area in which Riddle shines is with his characters. This is something that I started to realize when I read my first book from Riddle (Balam, Spring), but that really stood out to me as I read this book. There's something exceptionally authentic and realistic about the characters Riddle creates, something that brings them to life in different ways than a lot of books seem to do. Every character somehow feels like someone I would actually meet or interact with on a regular basis. They aren't boring by any means, but they're wonderfully normal and simply living their lives like any normal person would, complete with complex relationships and, you know, the occasional otherworldly experience.
Oliver was a great protagonist. He's intelligent and caring, but as with any human, he can easily make mistakes or jump to conclusions. I did appreciate that he seemed rather open-minded about both people and the crazy things happening in this book, which made him someone I actively liked as a person. Oliver is a bit stubborn about doing dangerous things that he probably shouldn't be doing, but it wasn't overdone and he actually had good reasons for doing them most of the time, so I didn't really find myself annoyed with him at all. The rest of the characters in this book are all equally interesting and had strong, well-developed personalities. I thought that Riddle's inclusion of a transgender character was one of the best I've seen. It was very intelligently done in a manner that, although was very clear and highlighted this person's character, was still somewhat subtle and felt very natural. It's handled with a deftness that almost made it stand out more in a positive way than I expected.
Another great part about these characters was the friendships and various relationships among them all. Riddle created some strong and in-depth, complex friendships between different characters and examined the good and bad of those relationships, both of those that have lasted and those that have fallen apart.
I also have to mention how I loved the ending immensely. I can't actually say why I loved it because of spoilers, but suffice to say it made me enormously pleased and I had a huge smile on my face because of how Riddle chose to end it. And lastly, I just have to mention that I think the cover is fantastic and could not do a better job at representing the story. It's a bit creepy and unnatural and the details also reflects details of the story extremely well.
First things first, I have to say I adore the cover of this book. It’s a beautiful piece of artwork and it represents the story very well. I also adore Travis’ writing, and this one certainly did not disappoint. The Narrows bears some close similarities to Stranger Things with it’s dark, mysterious ‘other’ world (and I have to admit, I was a little bit sceptical about this shared theme when I started reading) but it’s such a different story and actually very original.
Although it is, essentially, a horror story, this book also contains a lovely story of friendship, with fantastic and realistic relationships between the group. It also deals – very sensitively, I thought – with the aftermath of suicide and the way people process the loss of a friend to suicide. The Narrows is a book filled with heart, alongside the creepiness and gore.
Oliver was a great character. He, of course, does the typical lead-character thing of heading off into the danger alone, which is usually something that really frustrates me, but his reasons for not including his friends are properly explained and completely understandable. Plus, he does go to them for help eventually. My personal favourite character, however, was the Knave. He’s super creepy and evil, and just generally fabulous.
One of the characters, Sophie, is transgender and this element was pulled of incredibly well. It was great to see the representation, and it wasn’t forced at all (as these things can often be). The fact that Sophie used to be a boy is mentioned only for context and fitted in perfectly without becoming a focal point for the story.
I actually can’t think of a single thing I didn’t like about this book. Read it.