Title: The Lost Causes of Bleak Creek
Author(s): Rhett McLaughlin, Link Neal, Lance Rubin
Publication Date: 2019
Length: 326 pages
Genres: horror, mystery, humor, ya (it’s not branded as such, but it’s pretty much there)
Ah, family reunions… well, forced togetherness at holidays at least… I both look forward to it and dread it every single year. Thanksgiving, in the past, has tended to be a calmer affair at least, but still, sitting at my parent’s table this past November I knew at any time I could run into a landmine of some sort. Thankfully, I had this book to push my nose into when things got a little too uncomfortable.
Considering some of the themes of the story, it fit pretty well for the family disconnect that shows up that time of year, and I kept dipping in even amidst the relatively calm moments.
In short, I devoured the thing, just as easily as I did the pumpkin pie.
Admittedly, I’m not certain if the quick work I made of the book was because of it being a page-turner, or because I was stuck at a family get-together and had to have some means to distance myself from the chaos.
I have a feeling it’s a little bit of a and a bit of b.
Now, going into the story, I honestly had no clue what to expect from it. I knew, from the preview, that it was set in the 1990s and in the south- and it probably had some weird shit going on. Still, I didn’t foresee many of its twists. It was certainly a strange ride.
Take three teenage friends, add southern small town eccentricities, tack on a reform school outside of town and a few mysterious deaths, and then dump in a bunch of paranormal weirdness and there you go. The book isn’t YA, though throughout I wondered why not- because there’s nothing incredibly offensive in the book and there are so many elements in it that remind me of the sort of stuff I absolutely loved as a kid. I suppose, though, I can’t blame Rhett and Link for not wanting to fence themselves in as YA authors, especially in their first fictional work.
I’ll be honest, their inexperience, the fact that they are not first and foremost authors, shows (though evidently they have a more experienced co-writer in Lance Rubin). The story, is in many ways, rough. The tone veers into melodrama when the emotions are high, the writing is at times on the clunky side, and there was one chapter in particular that just felt tacked on.
But the other thing about Rhett and Link is they are entertainers. And boy was I entertained. As many problems as the story has- as weird as it got, I also found myself being sucked in by both the plot and the characters (well, most of them). There’s this weird verisimilitude that comes from so much of the characters and setting being… well… them, and their home. Rex and Leif are Rhett and Link in as many ways as they are not- and those voices come through loud and clear.
My favorite character though, is neither Rex nor Leif, though they’re both weirdly endearing. No, my favorite character is the third member of the protagonist trio, Alicia. Her place in this trio is an interesting one, as she’s both the ringleader of the group as well as an outsider regarding the Rex and Leif brotp- which she’s very aware of. Alicia is strong, and curious, and stuck in a place that punishes her for being the awesome person that she is. And, finding herself in the center of the stories events, she’s probably the character who’s affected the most. Ultimately though, there are very few characters, or relationships, that remain untouched in some way.
So, to wrap this up, is the story perfect?
But it was also fun as heck, and I was so thrilled when I saw that it left itself open for future works.
If you want a dip into something a little weird, and a little retro, with a heavy dose of best-friend dynamics, try this sucker out for size.