Woorwood by Chad Lutzke and Tim Meyer
Straight off the bat, I can say that this is the type of book that you are going to love being a part of – there is a fantastic immersive quality to the writing, it documents a coming-of-age story that delivers all of the pivotal moments that define turning from a boy into a man, but does so with a wonderfully satisfying taint of rot underneath it all, one that grows and ruins the entire experience. Both authors are new to me, but I have every intention of getting to know them better, I already have Mr. Meyer’s “Malignant Summer” arriving on my kindle on June 1st, and “Paradise Club” sitting there patiently waiting its turn, and I bought “Slow burn on riverside” and “Same deep water as you” from Mr. Lutzke based on my time with “Wormwood” (plus the wonderful artwork on the later, I am a sucker for lovingly rendered graphic art). So, my compliments, gentlemen, the sales noted above come from an appreciation of storytelling, content, and presentation. Wormwood hit all the right notes, in perfect time, without missing a beat. It feels like finding an old friend you had forgotten and deeply regretting the moment they are gone from your life once more, a situation you will take steps to remedy. It’s been a genuine pleasure to have met your voices.
Wormwood documents a troubled young boy’s sexual and moral awakening. A boy that has not been able to put down roots in any of the many places he has lived, following his mother and her job around the country in a similar situation to that of “Army brats”, his resentment grown to a spike between himself and his mother. In his new town, he starts a tenuous friendship with a boy called Seb, and through him meets Cass, the subject of his infatuation and downfall. Before you think this is a tried and tested love story triangle, it’s not. This is all about manipulation, from the very first moment of their meeting, and it leaves a wonderful bitter taste in your mouth. You want the relationship to grow but understand, right from the beginning, that the relationship is all one-sided, and not going to a healthy place.
I don’t want to go into the story too much, I think that would be a disservice to the two authors who have done an exceptional collaboration on the piece, instead, I want to focus on the craft. Because there’s a lot in evidence here.
The flow is really well-paced. The build-up of underlying tension, counterbalanced against the awakening of the MC’s discovery of love, desire, and the human need to explore those new emotions, is masterfully illustrated. You can absolutely understand Baker’s drive – his instinctual addiction to the object of his infatuation. It’s both tragic and redeeming for the reader – who hasn’t lived through a crush? What lengths wouldn’t you go to, to prolong those moments in which you finally feel awake, alive, and of worth in the eyes of a love interest? The emotional investment from the reader is perfect – a fantastic balance of hope and distrust. The tainted quality of the relationship and the increasing lengths of malfeasance the boys and Cass undertake, leave you in no doubt as to who is the manipulator and who is being led, yet the emotional bond between the reader and Baker, that recognition of his right to experience first love, first infatuation, first sex, drives us to almost need him to come together with Cass, to fulfill his right to be her lover – possibly, to be her redemption. It’s beautiful, but the authors leave us with no doubt, that this was always going to be a tragedy. And they really deliver on that promise, in sudden, brutal, raw detail that packs the punch we horror readers crave. It is a slap in the face, and the moment of “oh shit”, as it all goes south in an instant, is magical, that feeling of realized dread that marks the moment of perfect timing.
Wormwood is exceptionally written. It’s magnificent. One of those books that make me aware, as a writer, that I still have so much to learn.
Gentlemen, my compliments.
5 out of 5 ⭐
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