“It’s only a game.” Barbara…told herself as she awoke bound and gagged and guarded by solemn thirteen-year old Bobby.
I have no idea where to begin with my review for this book. It definitely ranks as one of the most frightening, disturbing reads of my life. It is not an easy book to finish, but once started I could not put it down. I had to know how it was all going to end. The terror and tension of the last 50 pages just about did my head in. My heart was racing, I was filled with dread. I felt nauseous. I was consumed with rage. I wept. For pity. For the fact that I couldn’t help. For the senseless unapologetic tragedy of it all.
I don’t want to say too much about the plot, because I think if you’re going to go on this journey, the less you know the better. The nightmare relentlessly unfolds, gradual, yet step by step with tremendous, undeniable, excruciating inevitability. This book is not for everyone. This is grim psychological horror at its best (or worst if you will). Reader beware.
I think children make such convincing agents of evil because in all of their innocence, their moral compass hasn’t been firmly set yet. The boundary which separates right and wrong is easily blurred and with little provocation becomes indistinguishable. Children are still operating on a level of selfishness that leaves little room for genuine empathy. You take all that and make it vulnerable to the psychology of pack mentality, and some horrible things can happen. And do, not just in the pages of fiction, but in real life. Just read the newspaper.
I can’t help but draw comparisons here to Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door (a story which is based on true events). Ketchum’s novel shows just how easily children can become corrupted and led down some dark and dangerous paths to human depravity. All great horror writers know this and the theme shows up again and again in books and on film – Stephen King’s short story “Children of the Corn” and his novella “Apt Pupil” come to mind, as well as William Golding’s classic novel Lord of the Flies. There was also a UK film made a few years ago called Eden Lake which illustrates this theme as effectively as any other movie I’ve seen.
Some of what I felt reading this book, I also felt while watching The Strangers (the home invasion movie starring Liv Tyler). The sheer helplessness and hopelessness to be at the mercy of captors who you cannot reason with, who have no empathy, no guilt, no human mercy that you can hang your hat on. I remember the trailer for that film when Liv Tyler asks “Why?” and her captors respond: “Because you were home”. For me, there’s such a chilling simplicity in that response, that something so horrible and violent can occur for no other reason more complicated than that simple fact.
Let’s Go Play At The Adams’ is one of the genre’s best kept secrets as far as I’m concerned – I only discovered it now at 37. It is also, I dare say, a modern horror classic. And finally, it is a book that promises to stay with you long after the reading is done. You won’t easily shake this one.