Everyone has a breaking point. So begins Jon O’Bergh’s suspenseful novel, The Shatter Point, an intriguing study of contemporary society wrapped inside a ghost story that is wrapped inside in a thriller. The novel confronts issues such as Internet celebrity, social media culture, and extreme thrills. But it also explores timeless issues of love, loss, and the ways in which we are haunted by our pasts. Weaving layers of truth and fiction, the story challenges our sense of reality with unexpected twists and turns.
Set in Southern California’s Orange County and historic Pasadena, the plot follows two parallel sets of characters whose lives eventually intersect. Jada Mercer is used to getting her way, and she loves danger. When she meets Asher Williams, a sensitive musician in a band, she pressures him to prove himself through the rigours of an extreme haunt known as Horror Place. At the same time, the haunt’s owners, Phil and Donna Woods, are locked in an escalating feud with neighbour Ruth Littleton.
The past intrudes in unwelcome ways for each character. Donna remains troubled by a previous marriage that turned sour when the husband became abusive. Her son Billy fears that he inherited his father’s propensity toward violence. Feelings of inadequacy haunt Asher from his years being bullied. Ruth hides a series of traumatic incidents from her youth. Jada’s craving for stimulation leads eventually to disaster. The terrifying consequences unfold step by step as the characters are pushed beyond the shatter point.
Much more than just a ghost story, the novel is a study of individuals under stress. The curious reader will discover different layers of reality versus fiction within the book. In a world haunted by the ghosts of the past—where reality is manufactured for popular consumption—how do we know what is real and what is fake, what is true and what is imagined? After the shatter point, the horror will become all too real.
I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
My first thought when I started getting into this book was that I’d read it at the wrong time of year. This is one of those books that are absolutely perfect in those days counting down to Halloween. Not quite scary, but just enough that it gets under your skin the exact right amount to make you think of pumpkins and changing leaves and stuff like that.
When a book is described as a society study, thriller, and ghost story wrapped into one and it’s not that long of a book, it makes me a bit skeptical, because there is no way that you can pack all three of those into a book that’s less than 200 pages and do each of them well. Either you’re lying, or it’s going to suck.
But this book is a work of art. It’s a fantastic ghost story, it’s a fascinating look into a suburban community with too many secrets, and it has that perfect thriller pacing and reveals to keep you hooked. I’d have never guessed it looking at the cover and synopsis, but let me tell you, it’s all there.
The Good Points of The Shatter Point:
The characters throughout this book are handled so well. There are quite a few that come up regularly, but they’re all well developed and unique, and I never had to go back and try to figure out who anyone was. Even the minor characters are handled well, without feeling tedious or like we were just reading a character study.
The pacing and the reveals throughout the book are brilliantly done and perfectly timed. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, some other wrench gets thrown into the mix.
That ending was beautiful. I won’t give it away, but I figured out what was going to happen earlier on in the book, and even finding out that I’d already guessed it didn’t ruin the ended.
O’Bergh has a great style for writing and it makes for super easy reading without feeling like you’re getting something dumbed down. The words stay out of the way of the story, but tells it so effectively.
The Downsides of The Shatter Point:
The points of view would change in the middle of a scene, and it drove me insane. Writing in third person does not give you the freedom to focus on who- or whatever best suits you in that paragraph. You’d be reading a scene between Donna and Judy, for example, and the last three pages would have focused on Donna, and then all of a sudden it’s from Judy’s perspective. It’s disorienting and it takes away from the story.
I don’t say this often, but I actually wanted more of this book. It was too short!
All in all, this book is fantastic, and definitely one you’re going to want to be picking up come October. If you enjoy stories that focus on societies and the people within them, ghost stories, being scared, or thrillers, you should definitely check out The Shatter Point.
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