Thursday, October 25, 2018

Review: Campfire by Shawn Sarles

Title: Campfire
Written by: Shawn Sarles
Published: July 17, 2018 by Jimmy Books (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: While camping in a remote location, Maddie Davenport gathers around the fire with her friends and family to tell scary stories. Caleb, the handsome young guide, shares the local legend of the ferocious Mountain Men who hunt unsuspecting campers and leave their mark by carving grisly antlers into their victims' foreheads. 

The next day, the story comes true. 

Now Maddie and her family are lost in the deep woods--with no way out--being stalked by their worst nightmares. Because there were other, more horrifying stories told that night--and Maddie's about to find out just how they end...

I really wanted to like this book, but unfortunately it really didn’t work for me. I had picked up a copy of this at ALA and I definitely had high hopes. As a mystery/thriller under an imprint from a well-known mystery writer I was expecting a thrilling read that had me on the edge of my seat and that is not what I found.

I had been saving reading this to read as part of a joint review for my podcast because it has that classic teen horror vibe to it, like the Fear Street books we normally read. And honestly, that was one of the best things about this book. From purely a nostalgia feel it definitely hit all he right notes. If I didn’t know any better and you had told me this book was written 20 years ago, I would have believed you. But the thing is, this book was written this year, and I can excuse a lot of things for being outdated but a book written more recently, I expect better from.

Because the thing about this plot is that it was really basic. I read a lot of mysteries and I have gotten pretty good at figuring them out. I am constantly looking for that one which is going to shock and surprise. This book did not do that. In fact I figured out one aspect of the reveal pretty early on and then the other one just felt like it came completely out of nowhere. Instead of hooking me in the narrative i lost interest. Plus the concept here was really good, but it never delivered on it. The idea of ghost stories coming to life is totally brilliant but the stories really kind of felt like an afterthought. I wish they had more bearings on the actual plot of the story and weren’t just a means to an end.

I think my bigger problem with this book however was the pacing. Once again, a synopsis revealed a book’s entire plot. And once again I was incredibly frustrated at that. If it takes you two-thirds of the book to get to what your book is, then there is something wrong. Maybe this is just a problem with the synopsis and I shouldn’t blame to book for that, but I do.

The one thing I did like about this book though is that it went there. This is a book with a huge body count. When people end up dead, they are really dead and often in gruesome and grotesque ways. Like a lot of classic 90’s teen horror the author also reveals in the descriptions of the dead bodies too. It had some really good visuals and that definitely did a good job of capturing my interest.

But maybe I just wanted the characters dead because I really did not enjoy them. It’s not that they were bad characters there were just so many of them. It felt like this was the clown car of camping trips. People kept coming out of the woodwork and I found it so hard to remember who was who and how they were all connected. I needed a cheat sheet to keep it all straight. And because of that, I never really connected with anyone. I mean, the main character Maddie was fine, she just didn’t have that badass final girl vibe I was hoping for.

All in all, this was not my favorite read. I was hoping for a scary and intense thriller and instead I got what felt like a campy teen horror from the 80’s. Not a bad read just not what I was looking for.

I give Campfire by Shawn Sarles 7 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. If you are looking for a scary Halloween read this is not it. If you are looking for a thrilling mystery this is not it. If you are looking for a campy teen horror nostalgia romp this is it. And if you are going to read this book... do not read the synopsis.

Have you read Campfire? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

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