Serving as a prequel of sorts to his 2019 coming of age novella, The Same Deep Water As You, Chad Lutzke’s latest revisits the world of love, drugs and skateboards in this nostalgic ’90s set dark drama.
Jex is living with two of his best friends but, when one moves away unexpectedly, he is forced to look for somewhere else to stay. Young, broke and unambitious, an unexpected stroke of luck finds Jex sharing an apartment in the picturesque Riverside, a place normally well outside of his means.
A string of roommates and some poor choices begin to lead Jex down a dangerous path. Passing the time with drinking, drugs and a string of unfulfilling sexual encounters, his mental health begins to deteriorate and when he meets Chris, his life takes a dark turn that he may no longer have the strength to turn away from.
Having grown up in the mid-90s/early 2000s this book really ticked a lot of nostalgia boxes for me. Jex’s lifestyle very much captured that period of time and I found a lot of the characters to be very relatable. Until I didn’t. After all, this is a Chad Lutzke book and what you think he has in store for you is not typically what you are going to get.
Lutzke has such an unrivalled knack for going places you don’t expect, and while I found a lot of things about Slow Burn on Riverside familiar, I found nothing about it to be predictable. Slow Burn lives up to its name and gradually lifts the veil on Jex’s seemingly laidback lifestyle, revealing a dark undertone of insecurity, vulnerability and self-destruction. When the more shocking events come about, it is out of the blue and without warning, described in a disturbingly passive matter-of-fact manner that makes it all the more jarring and traumatic.
Without spoiling anything, I can also say it is one of those books that is a completely different story once you re-read it. The events of the novella play out in such a way that, once you know what happens, the things that precede it are shown in a very different light and it makes for a very different tale when you go in knowing the outcome. It is rare that a book can pull off such a feat, but Lutzke manages it seemingly effortlessly and it was one of the very few times I’ve wanted to start again from page one as soon as I finished and experience the story in a whole new way.
Lutzke is fast becoming the go-to author for horror with a purpose. Slow Burn on Riverside is just another in an increasingly long line of examples of stories that get under your skin and stay with you, difficult to read and impossible to forget.
Slow Burn on Riverside by Chad Lutzke
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When 18-year-old Jex moves into a new apartment, his roommate’s descent into drugs paves the way for mental illness, while Jex deals with their sexually assertive landlady. But when her teenage son shows up, things take a very dark turn.
Description“Taking my mind for granted became my biggest regret.” When 18-year-old Jex moves into a new apartment, his roommate’s descent into drugs paves the way for mental illness, while Jex deals with their sexually assertive landlady. But when her teenage son shows up, things take a very dark turn.
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