Author: James Morris
Genre: YA Horror, Suspense
Publication Date: January 8, 2018
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (4 stars)
Murder and madness infect a small town.
For sixteen-year-old Ruthie Stroud, life on tiny Hemlock Island in the Pacific Northwest is an endless sea of boring green, in a place where everybody knows everybody’s business and nothing ever happens. Then her world is ripped apart when her parents divorce and a new man enters her mother’s life. But worse is yet to come.
When she drifts ashore on the mainland, hideously burned, Ruthie has a harrowing tale to tell. It begins with the murder of a family. It ends with her being the sole survivor of a cataclysm that sweeps her little island. As a detective attempts to unravel Ruthie’s story of murder and madness, only one horrifying conclusion can be drawn: whatever was isolated on remote Hemlock Island may now have come to the mainland. Is Ruthie safe? Is anyone?
When parents make mistakes, worlds shift.
This is the second time I’ve been unnecessarily thrown when a book takes a sharp left turn toward the horror genre (which is completely on me, diving in after reading just the blurb and not the genre tags). Maybe I need to start seeking out that genre more actively, though? Because this is also the second time I’ve thoroughly enjoyed a horror novel.
Screams You Hear definitely took me by surprise. It’s such a strong, action-packed work of young adult fiction, and I devoured it in just two sittings. When a catastrophe on the small island Ruthie Stroud calls home leaves her as the sole survivor, she must convince the mainland of the horrors from which she barely escaped. The tale is told in two threads, one in the present where Ruthie haltingly shares her story with a mainland detective, and one starting five days in the past on Hemlock Island when the murder of a family acts as a catalyst for the terrors about to unfold.
There’s not much I can say about the plot itself without risking spoilers, but you’re thrown into the deep end quick. Morris’s background in television writing is so clear in his cinematic style. The plot is expertly paced, with suspense and tension always thrumming in the background, and the action scenes are incredibly well-executed; it’s like watching a horror movie play out in front of you.
Another strength in the novel is the character development. I especially enjoyed getting to know Ruthie and watching her mend and redefine her relationships with those important to her, even as their world was falling to pieces. She finds a ragtag group of allies in her best friend, her brother, her brother’s girlfriend, and even a school bully, and I loved watching them develop the sharper edges necessary to survive. There’s plenty of focus on the murderous chaos that has overrun Hemlock Island, but there’s also plenty of time to zero in on more poignant moments between a gang of young adults desperate to stay alive.
I had a blast reading this book. It kept me on my toes the whole way through, and the ending sent chills through my whole body. I’m definitely going to be keeping up with Morris’s work – fans of YA suspense and horror will definitely want to give Screams You Hear a shot!
About the Author
James Morris is a television writer who now works in digital media. He is the author of the young adult thriller What Lies Within, the dystopian love story Melophobia, the young adult suspense Feel Me Fall, and the young adult horror Screams You Hear. When not writing, you can find him scoping out the latest sushi spot, watching ‘House Hunters Renovation’, or trying new recipes in the kitchen. He lives with his wife and dog in Los Angeles. Catch him at jamesmorriswriter.com.
Warm thanks to James Morris and Reads & Reels for providing me with a digital copy in exchange for an honest review.