Bridesmaids meets Devil’s Rejects
When Jeff Strand not only recommends a book, but writes the forward for it, I tend to pay attention. If, like me, this means you go into Kenzie Jenning’s Reception expecting a Strand-like light comedy horror, then prepare to be pleasantly surprised.
Ansley Boone is set to be a bridesmaid at her younger sister’s wedding, taking place in an isolated but picturesque resort. Ansley has left rehab prematurely in order to be there for the bride, Shay, with whom she has maintained a strong bond in spite of her ongoing personal issues. The same cannot be said of her estranged parents, who don’t take kindly to her presence. The family drama becomes the least of their worries however, when her sister’s new in-laws turn out to have their eyes on more than the wedding cake for dessert.
The book is a slow burn to begin with. We are given plenty of time to get to know Ansley (who narrates the story in the first person) and both sides of the bride and groom’s family. It is time well spent, as one of the joys of this novel is the characters. Ansley in particular is a fascinating protagonist. Strong willed, flawed, resourceful and self-deprecating, I cannot think of any character I have read in a long time who felt so real and three dimensional. The banter between her and Shay is hilarious and, had the whole novel been about this family relationship, I would have been a happy customer. There is, however, a fun, From Dusk til Dawn style switch half way through the book, where the reader is dragged from the relative safe space of the family-based drama that we’ve been presented until now, into the full-on B-Movie mayhem that is the second half of the book. From that point on, anyone who came here looking for gore galore will not be disappointed.
Once the wedding ceremony erupts into an orgy of cannibalistic mayhem, the book makes up for the earlier slow pacing by hitting the reader twice as hard with chaos and carnage that doesn’t let up one bit until the final page. The violence is suitably over the top without stooping to pulp horror silliness, and the tension really builds once things get going thanks to all the solid characterisation that has been built up beforehand. The fate of these characters matter here, whether they are ones you desperately want to survive, or those that thoroughly deserve their gruesome comeuppance.
The book balances the horror, the humour and the drama so well, it’s hard to believe this is the author’s first novel. It is all so perfectly balanced. Fun enough to bring some levity without devolving into farce, horrific enough to satisfy any hardcore horror fan, without losing sight of the family relationships at the core. There are some clever twists and surprising revelations along the way and the ending satisfies in a way that few books can manage, at once unexpected and entirely apt.
If you are a fan of extreme horror, character driven stories, or like your humour pitch black, then this book needs to be on your to read pile. Kenzie Jennings second novel could not come quick enough.
If Jeff Strand has any more recommendations, I’m all ears!
RECEPTION by Kenzie Jennings
Ansley and her sister must work together to fight for survival and escape the resort before the groom’s cannibalistic family adds them to the post wedding menu.
DescriptionWhile her rehab counselor’s advice replays in her mind, Ansley Boone takes on the role of dutiful bridesmaid in her little sister’s wedding at an isolated resort in the middle of hill country, a place where cell reception is virtually nonexistent and everyone else there seems a stranger primed to spring. Tensions are already high between the Boones and their withdrawal suffering eldest, who has since become the family embarrassment, but when the wedding reception takes a vicious turn, Ansley and her sister must work together to fight for survival and escape the resort before the groom’s cannibalistic family adds them to the post wedding menu.