The Awakening has been likened to Stephen King in many reviews, with good reason - small town America beset by the Weird and fantastic is a staple of King’s work. But it also makes me think of the recent Netflix series Stranger Things. A coming-of-age story mixed with horror and the supernatural.
The book takes place in the summer before Toby, our protagonist, begins High School; a strange limbo between innocence and becoming an adult. Toby fantasizes about girls and gets drunk on his first beer - but still gorges on junk food in his treehouse with his best friend. The last days of childhood are the perfect place for the weird to meet the everyday.
Where Brett McBean is in creating realistic characters - no-one, aside from the main protagonist, are saints or sinners, but people, with prejudices and redeeming factors. Toby and his friends, enemies and love/lust interests are fully realised - even if, sometimes, their back-and-forth does drag a little.
The tone of the piece - with its makeout points, mom-and-pop corner stores and greasy school bullies skulking the streets in their cars - is very much of that timeless middle-America we see so often in fiction...making it all the stranger when, slowly but surely, things begin to go wrong.
This book is a slow burn. If you are going into this story wanting thrills and gore, you will come away disappointed - the supernatural sides of the story are very subtle, at first. But stick with the book, and you will find a quietly dark story about a small town, and the strange journey of growing up.