I was cautiously optimistic when I read that the Ragnarok Publications’ young adult novel The Silent End by author Samuel Sattin was being described as having roots in the tradition of Stand by Me and The Goonies.
Very cautiously optimistic.
The era of storytelling that produced those tales had a distinct, lived-in feel to it, one in which you can feel the flies flick at your face as you stare at the Body or smell the sour water as you trudge toward your face-to-skull with One-Eye Willy. It’s difficult to mimic, let alone keep stride with those giants.
However, not only does Mr. Sattin and The Silent End keep stride, Sattin manages to create a yarn that, while feeling a part of that tradition of storytelling, is fully-formed and with an atmosphere and vibrancy distinctly its own.
Part of that vibrancy, ironically, stems from the alternately melancholy and hopeful atmosphere that permeates The Silent End. And it’s an understatement to say that those melancholic and hopeful moods are completely and utterly earned. Eberstark is a teenager on the cusp of adulthood, deciding his next mood in the small Pacific Northwest town of Mossglow. Relations with his father have become strained at best since his mother’s disappearance a year ago, and their interactions are fractious. However, when his friends Lexi and Gus discover a wounded monster in the woods on Halloween, the trio have to confront not only their uncertain futures, but also the reality and supernatural nature of Mossglow itself.
Some of the best horror tales tease what’s behind the curtain, giving the reader a taste of what to expect while keeping the reader on uneasy ground and wobbly footing. From the mystery of the Hat and why Eberstark’s dad is cavorting with him to the shifting reality of the town itself, Sattin doesn’t let readers feel any sort of complacency. This unease about the nature of reality parallels nicely with the struggles the book’s teenage protagonists are facing.
While the plot is compelling enough, the story wouldn’t have shone as much as it does without the fully-formed characters with which Sattin populates the town of Mossglow. Having grown up in a small town in southeast Kentucky, people like Eberstark and Lexi and Gus could have been classmates of mine. Also, as my wife will tell you when visiting my hometown, everyone seems to know everyone and their business and their family tree several generations back. Sattin understands that culture, but, at the same time, does not reduce the townspeople to rote stereotypes. They all breathe on their own and have lives about them that could most likely fill novels of adventures of their own.
That attention to detail carries over to how Sattin addresses The Silent End’s teenage protagonists. Something that writers such as Stephen King and J.K. Rowling seem to know instinctively is that teenagers are actually people in their own right. They’re not taller children, nor are they mini-adults. They’re not completely sinners, nor are they gleaming saints. They have internal struggles all their own. So many young adult books want to anesthetize teenagers, present them free from their hiccups and personalities. Not so with Eberstark and his crew. They curse. They can be moody and petty and small, but they can also shine and soar and appeal to the angels of their better natures. In other words, they are humans in their own right. As I said, I could have known Eberstark. We could have geeked-out over miniatures and comic books.
With Halloween just around the corner, The Silent End is a perfect fit to read on a gray day or dark night to elicit a mood of fright and terror in anticipation of the ghoulish holiday. However, like some of the best tales of teenage coming-of-age, Sattin has crafted a tale that can be read during any season, both of the year and of the soul.
The Silent End is on sale now.