I’m honestly not sure how to categorize The Night Screams. It most definitely has horror/suspense vibes, with a strong overlay of gay romance although most of the “action” tends to be off-stage, both in the proverbial bedroom and also regarding what actually happened to young Cal.
Told largely through Cal’s POV, the story unfolds as Cal escapes from his abductor/torturer. This scene is especially well-done, reflecting confusion, terror, disorientation, even some flights of moral dilemma overridden by necessity and circumstance. When he is finally safe, his abductor dispatched by the police, he finds shelter and a new start with the owner of the grocery store he was caught stealing from.
Gary and Luce are almost too good to be true—they welcome Cal, much as they had Jake who also lives with them, with open arms. Jake, not so much. The tension between the young men is palpable, and quite often confusing, as Jake seeks to stake his prior claim to their foster family’s pride of place and affections.
Much of the story revolves around the ebb and flow of conflict and misunderstandings between Jake and Cal, neither of whom is comfortable sharing what brought them to that place and time, particularly Cal against whom horrific acts had been perpetrated, leaving him scarred inside and out.
Cal’s journey is fraught with obstacles that are heart-wrenching and truly terrifying. It is never a given that he’ll be able to come away from the abyss whole and functioning. On the other hand, because so much of what had transpired while Cal was being abused is kept from the reader, there is a slight loss of impact and leaves open many questions about what really occurred. Jake’s story is more straightforward, so it’s easier to establish a baseline for his behavior—problems with anger management being a large component of what makes Jake tick.
The scenes of affection are tastefully done, mostly behind closed doors, so this story (though heavy on allusions to violence and horror elements) is quite suitable for older teens.
Call it a character study, a coming of age, The Night Screams succeeds in being a bit of a page turner, replete with a few plot twists and surprises, some especially sad moments, and a set piece at the end that nicely ties up the suspense/mystery of what happened to Cal. And, because it is also a romance, you have the requisite HEA, despite the ages of the protagonists.
The Night Screams is a solid 4 Star effort that both adults and young adults will find favor with. A recommended read.
After Cal escapes a deranged kidnapper who tortured him, he doesn’t even have the clothes on his back. Desperate and afraid, he breaks into a convenience store. But Jake, a clerk at the store, confronts what to him is little more than a petty thief. After a violent tussle, he knocks Cal out.
Jake encourages his Uncle Gary, the owner of the store, to report Cal to the police, but Gary can’t bring himself to report a kid who was just looking to steal food. When Cal wakes, Gary asks him if he’s okay. But Cal’s trauma has left him mute. Instead, he has to write his experiences down, relaying the horrifying events that led him to the store. The police track down the sick man who held Cal captive, and when he confronts them with a gun, he’s shot dead. However, Cal discovers that even with his captor gone, he is far from free of the nightmare he endured.
Gary and his wife welcome Cal into their home, determined to help him heal. Jake doesn’t trust Cal, and he isn’t afraid to say so. But buried beneath Jake’s disapproval might be the person who can help Cal recover from the terrifying experience that continues to haunt him.