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Author of AGAINST A DARKENING SKY, THE EMPTY ROOM, OUR DAILY BREAD, and others. Find out more at www.LaurenBDavis.com. I read as if my sanity depended upon it.. . . oh, wait, it does! Snort.

What on earth are the children doing?

Bad Influence - William Sutcliffe

What are the children up to? Good lord. This brought back a number of unpleasant memories about the sort of cruelty and violence children can be capable of, as well as the terrible hunger to belong, at any costs.


Ten-year-old Ben is lonely, with his best friend Olly away for a while. He meets Carl -- older, bigger, tougher, a bit odd, and decidedly dangerous. An early scene involving a chain saw is truly terrifying, although no blood is spilled, which is a testament to the power of Sutcliffe's writing.


When Olly returns and makes friends with Carl, things begin to unravel. Violence escalates, as does the tone of menace, which is so beautifully balanced with humor (not to mention witty little drawings). The power struggle of children is agonizingly accurate and very dark indeed.


The climax of the book is truly disturbing, even if the denouement lacked a slight edge, for me. A tiny bit more insight at the end-- applied with the same masterfully indirect brush Sutcliffe uses in the rest of the book -- would have tipped it over to five stars. A quibble, though. Recommended.