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STRAIGHT ON 'TIL MORNING - 2001
by Christopher Golden
Has anyone else noticed the number of horror novels that deal with puberty and coming
of age? There are a lot of them out there if you look around. Stephen
King's IT and THE BODY, Robert R. McCammon's BOY'S LIFE, Ray Bradbury's
THE HALLOWEEN TREE and SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES and a few dozen
more. I've even hit on the subject myself. The latest one I've run across,
and one that deserves to rest in the same bookshelves as all of the aforementioned
titles is STRAIGHT ON 'TIL MORNING,
by Christopher Golden.
Golden is another writer who either remembers his own adolescence very, very well,
or is perfectly capable of lying about it beautifully. The story here
involves Kevin Murphy, an almost-fourteen year old boy who is killing
off his last summer before high school in all the usual ways, including
spending as much time as he can with his friends, squabbling with his
older brother, Jesse and worshipping the girl of his dreams, while lamenting
that he never quite has the guts to let her know how he feels. The object
of his desires is Nicole, "Nikki" French, a red haired beauty who looks
on Kevin as her best friend, and tends to seek out the worst types of
guys to be the object of her desire. If you can remember anything at all
about puberty, the odds are you wither were one of these two, or knew
them both, even if their names, sexes and faces were changed to protect
the innocent. It's a simple enough equation: as long as Kevin is with
Nikki, he feels complete. As long as Kevin is there to pick of the pieces
when she crashes another relationship, Nikki can survive the things she
puts herself through.
That's not to say Kevin is waiting on the sidelines and pining away for Nikki. Quite
to the contrary when the novel begins he's got a girl of his own and the
fights between them are as powerful as anything I've run across that deals
with relationships. Golden hits the nail on the head when it comes to
the turbulent waters of adolescent infatuation. But that's just the backdrop
to this story. That's the setting to let you know what's happening and
how drastically things are going to change when Nikki meets a new, older
boy, a young man named Peter Starling. Peter is in his late teens, at
least a handful of years older than Nikki. He's a handsome, charming guy
with a car, and he and his friends are also the very same older kids who,
just days before Nikki meets him, were doing their very best to beat the
living hell out of Kevin and his friends. Needless to say, Kevin doesn't
trust Pete very much.
Despite his own instincts about the stranger, Kevin is willing to even go against
his better judgement and spend time with Pete and his gang in order to
stay near Nikki. Golden deftly weaves the story together, dealing with
the problems arising from Kevin's blooming feelings for Nikki and his
virtual abandonment of his peers on several occasions. He also slowly
cranks up the level of tension revolving around Pete Starling and his
gang. The novel kicks into overdrive around the same time that Pete takes
off with Nikki, leaving Kevin to try to find her and save her from whatever
it is that has taken her away from his world.
There are supernatural elements to the novel. STRAIGHT ON 'TIL MORNING Morning pushes the boundaries between a traditional horror tale and a
high fantasy, and in a few places crosses over into that other genre with
ease. But it never tries to become a high fantasy novel in the truest
sense. In the long run, despite the dark edge and the fantastic elements,
Golden's novel remains a sublime example of the magic and pain that are
a part of growing from childhood into adulthood. Whether or not you remember
puberty as well as you think you do, Christopher Golden brings back the
memories with a fresh, powerful story that is a perfect example of what
a good novel is all about. STRAIGHT ON 'TIL MORNING was not what I expected; it was better than that. I'm going to have to
give this one Five BookWyrms. Four for being an incredible story and one
more for hitting adolescence almost perfectly.
This review copyright 2001 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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