This book follows the tale of a boy whose drunken father wants him to “man up,” forcing him to spend a night in the creepy basement of the apartment complex as a rite of passage, killing all the giant rats rumored to live there. The book begins in a rather pleasant way, with the terror end-loaded into the last 40 percent. The strength of this book is the situation. Robbie is a sympathetic character, and his dad (and some other characters) are bullies enough to make us root for Robbie. There are also some characters that join Robbie, making us like him further.
The weakness of this book is the telling of the story. It’s told in third person omniscient, so there’s a lot of “head hopping” from what one character is thinking to what another is thinking—sometimes even within paragraphs of each other. As a result, I never felt like I got to know any of the characters well enough—I wasn’t shown much through their perspectives. Rather, there were lots of scenes comprised only of “telling” me what a character was like, stating an adjective and then following up with an example. As a reader, I much prefer being shown. For such a short novel, I also found a lot of repetition of words and sentence structure that sometimes served to slow down the plot in places where I wanted to be tearing through the pages to see what happens to the characters.
Still, the situation presented in the tale is creepy, at times even terrifying—and at the end (in the basement), it will have you burning through the pages to see if your worst suspicion is correct.
I would recommend the book to a younger readership, provided they like scary stories. I can see this story as a “gateway drug” to harder horror.