I suppose it was inevitable that I wouldn’t perfectly gel with every single thing SGJ has written. This was good, but not really my thing.
At first, I was really into it because I love a chatty, informal narrator (when done well). And in the style regard, I can’t fault this book at all. It’s solid. But the story itself just didn’t really work for me. The novella opens with our main character, Sawyer, telling us about the time a prank went very wrong for he and his friends, and now they’re all dead (except for Sawyer SPOILERS and possibly Shanna?? END SPOILERS). The prank involved dressing up a mannequin and sneaking him into a movie theater their friend worked at, but Sawyer is convinced (while they are being kicked out of the theater) that he saw the mannequin get up and walk out. And then the friend they were playing the prank on dies in a gruesome fashion, setting off some EVENTS. Sawyer is more and more sure that Manny the mannequin is out to get them, and he must take action to prevent a larger tragedy.
This where the spoilers come in.
SPOILERS So, like many I’m sure, I was expecting the mannequin to do some killing. In retrospect this was silly of me because SGJ doesn’t like to do the expected thing. What we got instead, though, just didn’t work for me. Sawyer is clearly losing his mind and is convinced that Manny the mannequin has come to life and is not only going to come after them for abandoning him after one fun-filled summer, but that he’s eating Miracle-Gro (the fertilizer) and sneaking around town in the dark of night, and eventually growing to be so enormous he has to live at the bottom of the nearby lake so people can’t find him out. This also leads Sawyer to the conclusion that in order to spare the families of his friends, he has to take out his friends before Manny can.
I understand that Sawyer is experiencing some sort of psychosis and thus logic isn’t really the best tool for understanding him, but none of this hit with me. I didn’t feel like it was in any way plausible emotionally. I think it might have worked for me if it were a full novel and we could spend a longer time slowly experiencing Sawyer’s delusions with him, but as it was it happened way too fast for me, and read as pretty implausible to me END SPOILERS.
So far my track record with SGJ as an author is: two 5-star ratings (My Heart is a Chainsaw and “The Backbone of the World”), two 4-stars (Mongrels and The Babysitter Lives), and one 3-star (this one). Hopefully I get more fours and fives added on as I catch up on his (large!) back catalogue.