Whoa. I . . . just . . . whoa.
I always tell people that Wasserman's previous book, The Book of Blood and Shadow, is like The Da Vinci Code except actually good. Well, this one is like Stephen King's Under the Dome, except better. It deals with some similar themes of power and religion and drugs and evil in an isolated small town, but the overall plot hangs together better in this one, and, more importantly to me, the depth of the characterization made me really care what happened to the teenagers at the center of the story. Wasserman does a great job of seeding the action with genuine character moments that make the horrors of the story resonate even more.
This book is not for the faint of heart, which is either a warning or an encouragement, depending on your tastes. A lot of terrible things happen, and Wasserman is pulling no punches here. There were a few times when I literally stopped, said "Did that just happen?", and reread a sentence or paragraph. But it never feels like bad or scary things are happening just for shock value - it's all earned and meaningful, never gratuitous. And the tone manages to be simultaneously bleak and hopeful, which is one of my favorite combinations.
(Disclaimer: I know Robin and she gave me an ARC, but I wouldn't say I liked something I didn't!)