The Sleepwalkers by J. Gabriel Gates
Privileged and popular Caleb Mason is celebrating his high school graduation when he receives a mysterious, disturbing letter from his long-lost childhood playmate, Christine. Caleb and his jokester friend Bean decide to travel to his tiny hometown of Hudsonville, Florida, to find her. Upon arrival, they discover the town has taken a horrifying turn for the worse. Caleb’s childhood home is abandoned and his father has disappeared. Children are going missing. The old insane asylum has reopened, and Christine is locked inside. Her mother, a witch, is consumed with madness, and Christine’s long-dead twin sister whispers clues to Caleb through the static of an a.m. radio. The terrifying prophesies of the spirits are coming to pass. Sixteen clocks are ticking; sixty-six murdered souls will bring about the end of the world. As Caleb peels back layer after layer of mystery, he uncovers a truth more horrible than anything he had imagined, a truth that could only be uttered by the lips of the dead. (Goodreads)
Caleb is just celebrating his high school graduation when he receives a strange letter from his old friend, Christine. Although they haven’t spoken in years, he rushes back to his childhood home—a far cry from his California life—all the way to Hudsonville, Florida, a podunk town where something truly crazy has been taking place.
Christine is in The Dream House, which resides in the former asylum. She claims to speak to her long-dead twin sister, Anna. Even weirder, children are disappearing left and right. Caleb’s own father, who he hasn’t seen in years, has disappeared as well. The whole town seems to know these mysterious things are happening but are too frightened to act. To make matters creepier, at night the area seems to be crawling with sleepwalking children. They’re asleep, but are led by an unseen force to carry out destruction, kidnappings and general weirdness.
So basically, this is the stuff of nightmares.
This book started with a bang. Caleb is a bright young guy with major future aspirations. He wants to change the world. His buddy, Bean, is less driven but truly funny and loveable (Bean, friend, I love you). It says so much about Caleb and about Bean’s devotion to him that the two would pick up and leave California after getting Christine’s crazypants letter.
There are several great spooky moments and there are layers and layers of mystery here. There were many times when I felt engrossed and completely perplexed (in a good way), but somewhere it lost me. It was so perfectly mysterious in the beginning, but little by little it lost steam. And ultimately, I had many questions about the sleepwalking children and how they were controlled. The Big Bad Villain is finally identified, and his motive is brought forth, but I still didn’t completely understand why. I was left with more questions than answers. So while the ending was intended to be somewhat ambiguous, it left me a little disgruntled.
Crush Intensity: I don’t usually do it this way, but for the basic story I’d say 3.0/5. For the ending and all of the unanswered questions I’d give it a 2.5/5.
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I was fortunate enough to have two opportunities to read this book. First, through HCI Teens and Net Galley. When I wasn’t able to read the e-galley in time, HCI graciously sent a hard copy to me. Thank you!