Title: The Loop
Author: Jeremy Robert Johnson
Page Count: 306 pages
Rating: 5 / 5 ✨✨✨✨✨
Release Date: 9/29/2020
Stranger Things meets World War Z in this heart-racing conspiracy thriller as a lonely young woman teams up with a group of fellow outcasts to survive the night in a town overcome by a science experiment gone wrong.
Turner Falls is a small tourist town nestled in the hills of western Oregon, the kind of town you escape to for a vacation. When an inexplicable outbreak rapidly develops, this idyllic town becomes the epicenter of an epidemic of violence as the teenaged children of several executives from the local biotech firm become ill and aggressively murderous. Suddenly the town is on edge, and Lucy and her friends must do everything it takes just to fight through the night.
“It’s like you get sick from the anger and the helplessness of living in this fucked-up system and you feel like destruction might be the only way to shut it all down.”
I absolutely love genre-bending horror when the person writing it is a master of their craft, and Jeremy Robert Johnson is absolutely that, so this turned out to be an incredible reading experience. In just around 300 pages, we get a little sci-fi, a little horror, and even a tiny bit of romance. I went into this one not knowing anything about it previously, and since the cover doesn’t really give you any insight into the story, I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. I was blessed with a weird, outrageous, fast-paced conspiracy thriller that completely absorbed me, yanking me right out of my world and into the town of Turner Falls.
There are some really specific things I love in horror (but will obviously still enjoy books that don’t include all of these): I prefer it to be teen/20s based in character age range most of the time, I love small town settings, and I can’t get enough of a good conspiracy. THE LOOP checked every box for me, and while I’ve seen it referred to as “Stranger Things meets World War Z”, I think a much more accurate vibe is The Faculty meets Disturbing Behavior from the 90s, which is also my absolute favorite decade for scary teen movies. Did I already mention how perfect this book is for me?
Johnson writes characters that are believable and heartfelt, both in their strengths and in their weaknesses. I loved our main heroine Lucy, and also really adored Bucket and Brewer, her high school buddies. Their relationships and friendships reminded me of what it was like to be in high school and have a primarily male social circle – gross things are funny, porn is an almost constant topic of conversation, and there are lots of confusing feelings going on a majority of the time that are joked away and not really talked about. The way the characters and their connections were portrayed in this, in such a wholesome, honest way, really stands as a brilliantly stark contrast against the absolute bonkers gorefest going on in the rest of the book.
While some books opt to give you all the information about a specific virus or contagion right up front, this one prefers to lead up to it without revealing too much too early on. This method of storytelling keeps the reader in the dark for a large chunk of the mayhem, which really invests you in the confusion and worry that the characters experience. Things go wrong for Lucy and her friends very quickly, and the violence and trauma and struggle are unrelenting. Since pretty much everything takes place over the course of a single night, you may be like me and will feel compelled to keep reading until you finish the book in a single sitting at 4 AM – and to this, I say do it! It’s worth it.
Truly, this is a wild ride of a book, and one that I’ll absolutely be recommending as often as possible from this point on. I’m not a new reader of Jeremy Robert Johnson’s work, but even if he weren’t already cemented as an author I’d auto-buy, he would be after reading THE LOOP. It’s that good, seriously! Don’t miss the late September release – you can pre-order both the hardcover & the digital version on Amazon today!
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