Jinxed

Jinxed was written by Thommy Hutson and first published in 2018. It is a horror story which focuses on a teenager and her friends as they are hunted by a masked serial killer. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s other work to full appreciate it.

The Trask Academy is one of America’s wealthiest and exclusive art schools. Teenagers who attend there are ear-marked to become the celebrities and Broadway stars of the future, and the best of them can expect to be scouted at the school’s annual showcase. Layna is disappointed when she loses out to her friend Sydney, but totally understands why. Sydney is stunning and talented, while Layna is at the school on a scholarship. However, she receives her chance a few days later after a tragic turn of events.

Sydney is found dead, apparently having thrown herself from the window of her dorm. Although the school is keen to write this off as an isolated incident, Layna and her friends can’t quite shake off their doubts. Sydney showed no sign of being unstable and was really looking forward to the showcase. It’s not long before their fears are justified when another of Layna’s friends mysteriously vanishes from the library.

The group soon discovers that they are completely isolated as the school is on a remote island and the phone lines are down. As a killer in a theatre mask stalks the halls, Layna comes to learn that he has some connection to both her and an unperformed play written by a former student. However, as the killer continues to strike those close to her, she realises that she must find out what that connection is and unmask him before the curtain falls on her forever…

I need to start this review with my traditional words of warning. Jinxed is incredibly violent and personally, I felt that the level of gore in this story was excessive for a young adult novel. From the very first chapter all of the murders are described graphically, presenting each prolonged death to its most minute detail. This is certainly not a novel for very young or sensitive readers, and adults may want to have a flip through to determine if they think it’s suitable before gifting it to anyone under the age of sixteen.

I chose to read this novel because 1980s slasher films are a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine. They’re predictable, cheesy and completely over-the-top, but there’s just something that I find really quite fun with the likes of The Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween and Friday the 13th. While I was curious to see how this concept would transfer into novel format, I unfortunately found that it was not really that effective. Personally, I think that this boils down to the fact that novels are not frightening in the same way that films are.

Horror movies really boil down to three sorts of scares – gore, jump and dread. For novels, the only one that really gets under a reader’s skin in the latter. Gore and torture can read make the reader feel uncomfortable, but an author really needs to make them worry about what could happen through building a sense of dread if they want to make the reader feel afraid for the characters. Unfortunately, Jinxed really likes jump scares, which are something that don’t work at all on page. The killer in this novel has a habit of just popping up behind people. Where does he come from? How does he move so silently? These are things that you just roll with in a slasher film but are problematic in writing. They’re not scary, they’re just a bit weird.

However, the book is still relatively enjoyable. While it sometimes feels a little clumsy (gore is described in great detail but nothing else is), I didn’t get bored. A teenager was messily dispatched every couple of chapters and I did keep reading because I was genuinely curious to find out what the killer’s motivation was. However, the overall pacing of the novel still felt a little off. It took a very long time for the bigger picture to be made clear.

Every time Layna uncovered a potential clue, something was quick to snatch it from her. A lead sends her to the record office only for her to find that the file she needs is missing. A character begins to reveal a secret to her, only to be immediately stabbed. The reader never even discovers what the play is about. While Layna does give a very rough synopsis, it’s hard to figure how it ties events together when the reader never finds out what the manuscript actually says.

I personally felt that Hutson just held back on a little too much, making it impossible for the reader to guess the whole twist because he didn’t give away enough clues. While you can figure out who the killer is through process of elimination, it’s not until their final monologue that many of the missing pieces that connect them to Layna are exposited. Added to this was the fact that their rationalisation of their crimes was flimsy at best. Without spoiling too much, it boiled down to a mixture of sheer coincidence, bizarre leaps of logic and the fact that they were just plain insane.

Yet the most frustrating thing about this story was its characterisation. If you’ve ever seen a slasher film before, you probably have a good idea of what I’m about to say. Traditionally, slasher films are just about the deaths. You don’t remember the characters, just the way that they die. Kevin Bacon’s death in the original Friday the 13th is unforgettable, yet I couldn’t even tell you what the name of his character was. This book has the same issue.

Characters need to be likeable if you’re to feel anything when they die. While Layna’s group of friends provides a reasonable cross-section of school life, I didn’t like any of them. Every single one of them was a bad friend, from self-serving Crosby to acid-tongued Nancy. They constantly sniped at each other, or resented their supposed best friends for doing well. They were also quick to forget their dead friends. Layna was inconsolable after Sydney’s death for all of a chapter, then she went back to flirting with her boyfriend. As nasty as the murders were in this story, it was hard to feel sad for the characters because they were all terrible human beings.

I think that probably about sums it up. While Jinxed might have worked better as a screenplay, it unfortunately isn’t a very effective novel. It’s not very scary, the characters are dislikeable and the killer’s motivation is decidedly odd. This book might hold some appeal for fans of slasher films but it’s not really a book that I’d otherwise recommend.

Jinxed can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. skylerboudreau
    Apr 09, 2018 @ 23:01:45

    I’ve read a few books that felt like screenplays lately too. The frustration is awful, isn’t it? There are some things that just don’t work without the visual elements like lighting and cinematography. Great review, a shame the book turned out the way it did, though.

    Reply

    • Kim
      Apr 09, 2018 @ 23:14:35

      Yes, I agree. There are some things that just can’t work on the page, just like there are some things that are better on screen. Glad you liked the review though!

      Reply

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