Death by the River
Genre: Young Adult, Horror, Thriller
Published by: Vesuvian Books
Publication Date: October 2, 2018
Number of Pages: 389
ISBN: 1944109145 (ISBN13: 9781944109141)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads
A High School “American Psycho”
SOME TRUTHS ARE BETTER KEPT SECRET.
SOME SECRETS ARE BETTER OFF DEAD.
Along the banks of the Bogue Falaya River, sits the abandoned St. Francis Seminary. Beneath a canopy of oaks, blocked from prying eyes, the teens of St. Benedict High gather here on Fridays. The rest of the week belongs to school and family—but weekends belong to the river.
And the river belongs to Beau Devereaux.
The only child of a powerful family, Beau can do no wrong. Handsome. Charming. Intelligent. The star quarterback of the football team. The “prince” of St. Benedict is the ultimate catch.
He is also a psychopath.
A dirty family secret buried for years, Beau’s evil grows unchecked. In the shadows of the ruined St. Francis Abbey, he commits unspeakable acts on his victims and ensures their silence with threats and intimidation. Senior year, Beau sets his sights on his girlfriend’s headstrong twin sister, Leslie, who hates him. Everything he wants but cannot have, she will be his ultimate prize.
As the victim toll mounts, it becomes crystal clear that someone has to stop Beau Devereaux.
And that someone will pay with their life.
Good vs Evil: Horror in Young Adult Fiction
The dichotomy of good and evil will always be pivotal to any horror story, whether in adult, YA, or children’s genre. It is the hallmark we use to teach a lesson about choices. Much like the legends and nursery rhymes from the past, such stories relate the pain and trauma an individual has suffered, and the life choices made because of their agony. Characters who live on in popular culture—like Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and Michael Myers—all endured horrible pasts that led to their fiendish ways. Horror is very much a moral genre, continually giving us examples of what is good and bad about a person. And the good doesn’t always win.
The same can be said of other genres. Can you picture Star Wars where the Death Star isn’t destroyed, and the rebels are captured and die?
In the same way mythology guided older civilizations to make life decisions, horror guides us today. It should be no surprise that horror found a firm foothold in the YA genre. The horror movies we all grew up with were essentially YA films—a group of teenagers are out for a good time when a madman strikes. Everything comes back around, and nostalgic horror is on the rise, especially after the success of Stranger Things. It makes sense that modern YA novels would explore dark subject matter as well, with at least elements of horror, not unlike classics such as Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews.
With the growing popularity of YA through the years, the resurgence of horror is expected. But the treatment of good versus evil in YA, I feel, is unique. The genre offers a more introspective approach to the characters, both bad and good, and how they handle various situations.
In Death by the River, the evil Beau Devereaux upends his hometown of St. Benedict by brutalizing women. He is the golden boy of the parish, but beneath the surface lurks a psychotic mind. The outward good belays the inner evil. For me, these are the most interesting characters, and YA is producing more and more of them. With the increased interest in serial killers and NCIS type shows, readers have become more sophisticated and long to see edgier characters. In YA horror/thrillers, such characters can thrive. We can challenge our perceptions of good and evil because in a novel we can learn much more about a person’s past.
Understanding where Beau Devereaux comes from, the secrets he hides, and the inner turmoil he suffers, makes him compelling, and a whole lot scarier. In the end, that is what drives YA horror. The reality of knowing the boy next door we see every day can be the psychopath we are all afraid of meeting. When art imitates life, it can titillate and terrify.