The Boy with the Spider Face: AJ Franks
Reviewed By Steve Stred
Oftentimes I head into a book without having read the synopsis. I know that sounds odd if you’re someone who is meticulous about what they read, but occasionally, like this book, a book gets recommended to you by a few people and it gets offered up for review, so you get an ARC and dive in.
For me, personally, even if I’d read the synopsis I’d have come away with the same ultimate experience. Feeling underwhelmed. Feeling that there was so much potential that was squandered.
A shame, because this book, at its core, was sweet, caring and made me want to read it. But the lack of depth and fluff that seemed to occur really tossed a lot of the positive aspects under the bus.
What I liked: The story follows a kid with the face of a spider. Every other kid treats him like junk and calls him names. The adults are no better, with only one teacher who treats him with kindness and respect. One day, a new kid arrives and they immediately connect, neither caring about how each other is different. The new kid, Aarav is middle Eastern and this causes issues of its own.
I really enjoyed seeing Jeff and Aarav connect and develop this instant friendship. It actually really reminded me of how my nephew, Gabe, who has just entered high school, has now found a great friend. Gabe has high functioning autism and struggled to make any friends in elementary school. But now, in high school, with more kids who share his interests, he’s made a connection. It has warmed my heart, and reading how Jeff made this connection and how his mom was so excited, really was great.
I also really enjoyed seeing how Jeff’s teacher cared so much for his student and was willing to help answer any questions about Jeff’s differences.
What I didn’t like: As I mentioned, everything ultimately came off feeling underwhelming. It was a repetitive refrain to let the reader know that Jeff is different, that Aarav is different, that Aarav’s father thinks Aarav is ‘different’ and that Jeff needs to stay away. We even get Jeff’s dad losing his cool, flipping a table and yelling “no son of mine will be friends with a foreigner!”
I really wanted this to work, but we got no character development, no seeing how things were and how they could be better or could change if this and this were done. It was just rammed down our throats that they were different and that was bad. It all became a bit much.
Why you should buy this: For me, the story didn’t connect, but as I said before, I wanted to know what happened, wanted to see Jeff’s story through and I was glad I did. I don’t know if the ending/epilogue really worked for me personally, but I’m one reader. This may very well work for you and you’ll enjoy a coming-of-age story of a boy who has a spider face and finally meets a friend. I know that was the part of the story that worked best for me.
The Boy With The Spider Face
A transformative science fiction and horror novella about acceptance, reflection, and revenge.
Jeff Pritchet isn’t much different from other teenage boys, with one exception. His monstrous, spider-like appearance and loner persona make him a target for bullying, when all he wants is a friend who sees beyond the surface.
Enter transfer student, Aarav Jain. Thoughtful, accepting, and insightful, he sparks an untapped hope in Jeff, transforming his life. But as the boys grow closer, their deepening relationship becomes hijacked by a darkness Aarav can’t escape and a life-altering secret Jeff can barely contain.
The unconventional pair find themselves marked for hatred, and when his bond to Aarav is threatened, Jeff discovers a sinister side he never knew he had, proving that, when pushed too far, emotions can be deadlier than venom.
Steve Stred writes dark, bleak fiction.
Steve is the author of a number of novels, novellas and collections.
He is proud to work with the Ladies of Horror Fiction to facilitate the Annual LOHF Writers Grant.
Steve has appeared alongside some of Horror’s heaviest hitters (Tim Lebbon, Gemma Amor, Adrian J. Walker, Ramsey Campbell) in some fantastic anthologies.
He is an active member of the HWA.
He is based in Edmonton, AB, Canada and lives with his wife and son.
You can follow Steve on Twitter @stevestred
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