The Story. Seventeen year old Chris Buckley has returned to the town of Solitary to save his mom. For all he knows she’s being held against her will by an evil pastor trying to manipulate him to do things he doesn’t want to do. And to keep him from the fledgling faith he recently embraced. The problem is, Pastor Marsh and the man he works for, as well as the man who does his bidding, won’t stop at threats. In reality, no one Chris knows and loves is safe. Who can he turn to for help? Who would believe him if he told all he knows about the men behind the evil in Solitary?
Evaluation. Travis Thrasher is an excellent writer–that’s clear from the start. He creates a character with a unique voice. Yes, he’s full of angst, but he isn’t without hope. In fact a good portion of the book is about the protagonist wrestling with his faith or discovering a new love.
Both of these threads–and sometimes they intertwined–are masterfully written. I liked Chris as a guy who appeared self-assured though inwardly he feels like he hasn’t got a clue what he’s doing. I like his protective nature, his inability to say all he’s thinking, his awe at the bright spot this one special girl has become in his life.
The horror never felt particularly horrifying to me, but I think that aspect of the series was more prevalent in the first three books. In Hurt, the perpetrators have been unmasked, the goal of their schemes is clear. The real focus is on how Chris is going to respond when the critical D-day approaches.
To be honest, the end wasn’t what I’d hoped. I wanted Chris to have a better plan, to do more, stand up for what he believed, resist evil. Instead it seemed as if he was still in reactionary mode, which he’d mostly been in throughout the novel. He had put some plans in motion, but what those things were mostly happened off stage. The one critical event had some flaws.
For (a purposefully circumspect) example (to avoid spoilers), at one point Chris needs help with a belt, but later in the scene, he seems to have no trouble with this belt even though there’s no one around to provide the same kind of help he required earlier.
There’s also a place where Chris could have exercised at least a modicum of forgiveness–the kind he’s received–but he spurns the opportunity in what seemed to me to be a cold-hearted disregard for life. In standing against evil, I’d like to see the character offer a sharp contrast–not returning evil for evil.
All in all, the book moved at a brisk pace. There were moments that were thoroughly engaging. I can see fans of horror embracing this series. I think the Christian elements and faith discussions were natural to the character and his circumstances. I liked the contrast between evil Pastor Marsh’s “sermons” and those of Chris’s girlfriend’s pastor.
Recommendation. Would a non-Christian read these books? Sure, if he wasn’t predisposed to hate Christians or Christianity. I think it’s an entertaining story without a bit of preachiness. Chris’s struggle with his faith seems believable under the pressure and intimidation with which he lives.
What about Christians? I see less here for Christians. Young adults may relate to the characters, but I’m not sure what they’d come away with.
Nevertheless, readers of any kind who like horror or thrillers can enjoy Hurt, no doubt.