A Coming-of-Age Nightmare
“The Shelter,” James Everington’s first novella-length publication, is proof positive that good writing can be found on Amazon’s self-publishing platform.
Told from the point-of-view of Alan Dean, a boy on the cusp of adolescence, it initially recounts how he and his closest friend, Duncan, have been unaccountably befriended by two older boys who once delighted in bullying them. It’s clear that on some level, Alan and Duncan are flattered by this strange bonding, one between two otherwise lonely pairs. That the two older boys, who still occasionally pick on the younger ones, might grow bored with them altogether, is a worry for Alan. There is, however, another dynamic in play: the smarter of the elder boys seemingly has an affinity for Alan, the second most intelligent of the four.
The day they set out to examine a WWII air-raid shelter, Alan knows something dark awaits them there. As they walk the long distance to this site, there is some discussion about a local boy gone missing. Once the boys reach the eponymous shelter, the pace quickens, but with a steady hand. In the end, the lives of these four are changed irrevocably, and Alan traumatized by what he finds in the dark, both figuratively and literally.
The inevitable comparisons to Stephen King’s “The Body,” another coming-of-age tale, begin and end with four boys setting out on an adventure. “The Shelter,” however, has an altogether darker tone. The children seem far less innocent, the destination painted by a presentiment of coming terrors, and cruelty honed to a significantly sharper edge. Everington manages all this admirably, with perhaps a bit too much foreshadowing, but still an enjoyable descent into nightmare country—certainly moreso than “The Body.”
Clearly, James Everington is a name one can expect to hear for some time to come.