December Park by Ronald Malfi was far better than I was expecting it to be. Mostly because I definitely judge a book by its cover, and it has one of the uglier covers I’ve seen. Design aside, December Park was a pretty solid read. But reader beware: this one was lengthy. I didn’t mind it much because I enjoyed the story and the character details, but for those looking for a quick scare this 756 page thriller might not be for you.
The whole book had a very Stranger Things vibe to it, so if you’re a fan of the show, you’d probably enjoy the book. It focuses on teenager Angelo Mazzone (Angie for short) and his four friends in a usually peaceful, small seaside (bayside? cape-side? I don’t know the difference) town in Maryland. The town, Harting Farms, has recently seen a number of disappearances and nobody knows why. The police say they’re runaways, but the town believes they have a serial killer on the loose: The Piper, who lures the children away. When Angie and his friends see the cops recover the body of one of the missing kids, they decide to insert themselves into the investigation and catch the Piper themselves. Set in the early 90’s, the gang of boys patrols Harting Farms by bike. Again, very Stranger Things, just a different decade. The difference with December Park is that there’s nothing supernatural going on here. It’s all just straight up human psychopaths.
I really liked this book. I thought it had a bit of a slow start, but I’m glad I stuck with it. Even though I was reading about a group of teenage boys, it didn’t seem like I was. Told from Angie’s perspective, it’s written elegantly and the story flows together really well. I loved all of the characters, except for the ones I was supposed to hate. My only complaint is the ending. While the suspense built for the entire book and the end definitely creeped me out, I still can’t decide how I feel about it. It threw me for a bit of a loop and I had to reread the chapter just to make sure I had interpreted everything right, and I’ve got some mixed opinions. Read it for yourself and you decide.