GRAD NIGHT by Carver Pike

This is not YA horror, and these aren’t your typical teenagers.

The teachers at DS High know something’s not right. It’s the reason they don’t stay late to grade papers, they leave school in packs so nobody’s alone, and they stay away from the one boy with the cult-like following. Evil walks the high school hallways and everyone knows its name: James Bender.

They’ve made it through the school year unscathed. Well, almost. Now, the graduating class is planning something special for their favorite teachers. It’s by personal invite only.

Teachers are dying for an invitation. Here’s yours.

Join us at this year’s Grad Night party. It’ll be one you’ll never forget.

Carver Pike takes ordinary circumstances, cinches them tight with razor wire, and then saws back and forth. Gasp for air, holler for help, and pray for an end to the madness.

The IndieMuse Review

The Kids Aren’t Alright!

Fans of Bentley Little will find a new favorite author in Carver Pike. His recent novel, Grad Night, has it all: spooky school, creepy kids and bizarre supernatural goings-on.

Charlie is a teacher at DS High School, where the students are unruly, unpredictable and growing increasingly violent. The teachers fear for their safety and no longer feel in control. The troubles began when a new student arrives. All the teachers have seen him, but none seem to have him in their class, and they all feel inexplicably uneasy whenever he is nearby.

As the senior’s graduation day fast approaches, the teachers start receiving invites to a Grad Night party thrown by the graduating class. What should be a celebration turns out to be an ordeal of violence and murder, with the mysterious new student at its center. The students want payback, and the teachers may not live to see another school year.

I picked up this book expecting a fun read, and Grad Night absolutely delivered on that count. The characters are vivid and memorable and the action, when it gets going, is unrelenting and suitably horrific. This isn’t extreme horror by any means, but neither is it especially tame. There is an impressive body count and some unforgettable death scenes so not one for the ‘suggest, don’t show’ crowd. There were also some genuinely scary scenes, especially early on (a scene where a teacher is delivered her Grad Night invitation in the middle of the night was particularly stand out).

Where the book delivers on the scares and the spectacle, its let down somewhat by erratic pacing. The author seems to want to rush to the titular Grad Night and very little of the book spends time building up to it. Characters have an odd tic of jarring mental side-tracks where we get pages of flashback in the middle of a particularly tense scene, killing the books forward momentum.  The supernatural element to the book, while interesting at first, doesn’t really deliver and is ultimately irrelevant to the story and its outcome. Grad Night is at its strongest when the focus is squarely on the students and teachers.

I got very strong Bentley Little vibes throughout (the man himself is even namechecked midway through). It has the same themes of helplessness against all-powerful supernatural forces and taking the mundane (in this case a school) and twisting it into something bizarrely sinister. If you need a fix between Little’s books, then Grad Night should satisfy your craving.

Minor quibbles aside, this was an entertaining book and there was a lot of strong ideas and memorable scenes that’ll linger after you’ve put it down. After reading Grad Night I, for one, am glad that my school days are over!

RICHARD MARTIN

Richard started reading horror books at a young age, starting with R L Stine’s ‘Goosebumps’ and ‘Point Horror’ series. He traumatised himself at the age of twelve when he read Stephen King’s ‘IT’, and never looked back. He is currently based in the UK, where he lives with his partner, and an inappropriate amount of books.