David Ray stood in front of his mirror, dressed to kill. I look good, he thought, like the real deal, like a real killer. He narrowed his eyes, grit his teeth and unfolded his checklist. Sharp blades of black hair dangled in front of his face, covering the brownish rings that encircled his eyes. He peered at his scribbled writing and read the list as he felt his insides tense with hatred.
This is it, he thought. No room for mistakes.
Excerpt from Reunion, by Jeff Bennington
In his novel Reunion, author Jeff Bennington gives his readers a glimpse inside the heart and mind of abused and bullied teen David Ray, just before he shoulders a duffel bag full of guns and bursts into his high school’s cafeteria during an assembly. Several students are killed and more are maimed before he turns a gun on himself.
Twenty years later, valedictorian Maria Vasquez decides enough time has passed to organize a reunion of that year’s senior class–an opportunity to bond and heal, and to put the ghosts of the past to rest. Only a handful of classmates respond, and they’re still in varying degrees of shock after two decades.
Yet a bigger shock awaits them on the neglected grounds of the old high school.
Mr. Bennington uses the first three chapters on his book to introduce us to David Ray and some of the other students attending high school in Crescent Falls, Idaho. The rest of the book tells two stories: one of healing in the face of a horrific tragedy, and one of an angry spirit that refused to die twenty years ago. Both threads are good; neither are exceptional.
Reunion is my second review as part of The Eclectic Reader Challenge 2012, for the horror genre.
Reunion introduces readers to several characters in addition to Miss Vasquez and the disturbed Mr. Ray, and each have found different ways of dealing–or not dealing–with the tragedy. This presents the potential for unique points-of-view. In addition, the two main story lines offer varying opportunities for character insight.
There is also a slight twist at the end of the novel that was mildly surprising and, among other things, it serves to make David Ray a slightly more pitiable character.
It’s apparent Bennington performed a good deal of research into the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as it relates to this type of tragedy. Unfortunately, two of the characters–one has become a therapist specializing in PTSD and the other an author on the subject of the effects of bullying–begin their narratives as talking heads. Ironically, after their messages are out the supernatural creepiness drives them to become more realistic.
The two story lines at times also appear to be at odds with each other, and never really mesh into a whole.
And as mentioned above, there is a nice twist at the end, yet it seems as if some of the details could have been foreshadowed a bit to make their revelation feel less like afterthoughts.
I may have noticed a fault or two, but if I did, they were quickly forgotten; nothing distracted from the reading of the book, and appears to have been well edited.
In Reunion, author Jeff Bennington takes a story of tragedy and shows how different individuals deal with the stresses created by the event. Then, when all seems to be progressing well, he thrusts them into a situation more horrific than the original. And when you think the characters have it all figured out, a twist at the end makes sure that this isn’t a typical ghost story.
For all my complaints above, I enjoyed this novel: I give it three stars.