Review: The Gates

There are few things worse than being a small boy people overlook — especially if you know for certain the world is about to end and no one will take you seriously.  Just take the case of Samuel Johnson in The Gates, John Connolly's amazing and terribly entertaining novel.

Samuel Johnson, age eleven, and his dachshund Boswell decided to beat the rush and go trick-or-treating a few days early.  The Abernathys at 666 Crowley Road were first on the list, and they were none too pleased to encounter him.  As he sat on their fence and pondered what his next move would be (considering the whole beat-the-rush gambit had failed so miserably), he was drawn by a blue light emanating from the Abernathy basement.  And what he saw made him run straight home.

You would, too, if you saw what came out of the bright blue hole the Abernathys conjured up with the words they didn't understand in a book they couldn't properly understand but read aloud anyway.  (Evil, especially the kind with a capital "E," has a way of getting people to do that.)

Despite Samuel's feelings of isolation, he is not alone — and finds the unlikeliest of allies.  He also encounters the most malevolent of foes, both with and without scales, horns, pitchforks and Internet connectivity.

Connelly has a fabulous sense of humor as he follows the happenings in Biddlecombe on the cusp of Halloween.  However, he never betrays his characters, especially a young boy with problems of his own: his father recently departed, his mother preoccupied with her life change, the babysitter who was almost bearable until she got a boyfriend, a demon who needed that bag of jellybeans more than he himself did — and now Mrs. Abernathy.  On some days, even one stray pink throbbing tentacle is way too many.

The author knows when to take his story seriously, which adds to the tension and enjoyment of the novel. Connolly already walked that tightrope successfully with The Book of Lost Things, another glimpse into the tension and confusion that is puberty.  In both of these books, Connolly takes the familiar and holds it up to the light at just the right angle where things look different enough to be fascinating in a whole new way.

Please read this book.  It is a delight and one I heartily recommend.