Here and Only Here by Chriselle Dabos
Imagine all your middle-school nightmares made manifest. Add to that an eerie paranormal aspect that elevates the whole to the maximum level and you have this wildly creative and engaging tale of the middle school from hell.
Here, and Only Here by Christelle Dabos, translated by Hildegarde Serle
Paperback | $21
Fans of Dabos’ earlier works will find this one fascinating, unsettling and eerie. Most of us remember the exquisitely awkward and often painful years of middle school (Junior High School in my days) when personalities were developing or being retarded, hormones were running rampant in everyone’s bloodstreams and teachers and administrators were an ever-present annoyance seemingly placed to make lives miserable and maybe, possibly, impart someinformation supposed to be useful at an unspecified later date. Imagine all the ways that scenario could be made worse and you will have Here, and Only Here.
A rigid caste system including grade levels, perceived “coolness” and fealty to a shadowy but frighteningly powerful “prince” who reigns over the student body create an oppressive atmosphere that is dealt with in a variety of ways depending on the strengths and weaknesses of several students whose stories are told in first person. Some acquiesce, some rebel, some find clandestine or even paranormal methods of dealing with the situation. Each one carries both solutions and perils within themselves. The outcome is never clear, the next step each takes is without precedent; a self-perpetuating series of mysteries with a veiled threat behind them all.
This clever, imaginative and creepy tale moves with dispatch and mesmerizes the reader with curiosity and wonder at the amazing incidents and ideas that are portrayed and which come to pass. There is an atmosphere that reminds one of Lord of the Flies or even A Clockwork Orange brought up to date and made less gruesome but not less sinister. Menace saturates every page. It is unlike anything this reader has come across in memory. Many will recognize themselves (exaggerated, perhaps) in this fantastic coming-of-age/paranormal alternative universe story. Fantasy readers will find it compelling.