REMINDER: 3 stars on the Goodreads metric means "I liked it" and is in no way, shape, or form a negative rating. And in fact, I did like Bay's End, even as I have some mixed feelings about it.
I believe Bay's End was Edward Lorn's first novel (although I could be wrong!), and it serves as a fine introduction to the town and landscape where a number of his other later works are set. It does have some of the creakiness and odd pacing issues of first novels, but as a coming of age story it also has plenty of heart and honesty, as well as a group of teens worth rooting for, and a clean, easy-going writing style that makes it compulsively readable.
I must note, though, that I came into Bay's End having already read Lorn's incredible novel, The Sound of Broken Ribs, my #1 pick for best book of 2017, and in preparation for his latest release, The Bedding of Boys. While these are each stand alone titles, these initial two books are separated by a number of years wherein Lorn grew tremendously as an author. I don't mean this as a knock, nor do I wish to infer that Bay's End is by any means a bad book. It's actually quite a fine introduction to Lorn's style, a style that he has honed and improved on over the course of his career. We must all being somewhere, though, and Bay's End is a bit of a time capsule in that regard, and a fitting one at that.
The story itself is a time capsule, as a haunted man recalls the summer of 1992. Then, Trey was twelve going on thirteen, and he's made a fast friendship with the new neighbor kid, Eddy, a bond that will last all of Trey's life, long after Eddy's untimely demise. It's a summer of first loves, near-death accidents, and the intrusion of adulthood upon adolescence far too soon. Eddy is foul-mouthed and brash, and after they run afoul of Officer Mack he has the bright idea of tossing cherry bombs into the cop's patrol car. It's a moment that changes the course of these boy's lives forever and embroils them in larger events, sinking them into the meaner, darker secrets hidden in Bay's End.
As I said, I came into Bay's End after The Sound of Broken Ribs and a few of Lorn's other short horror stories, so color me surprised at the total lack of supernatural elements! I admit, I was expecting some kind of monster to rear its ugly head, and while there is definitely a fair share of ugly heads a-rearing, the horrors herein are strictly human. Bay's End, as we discover alongside Trey, has its fair share of dark corners and corrupted souls.
My chief issue with the book, though, comes down to pacing. There were times where it simply felt like the story was moving too fast, and I wanted Lorn to ease off the gas pedal and explore the town and its people a bit more. Instead, we kind of race from one set piece of action to the next and there's not a lot of time to decompress and regroup. Such is the way of those teenage years, though, always on the go, in a hurry to get to the next big thing and rush through it for whatever next big thing lies beyond. As it is, Lorn covers a lot of ground and stumbles across a few unsavory characters along the way, but it also feels like an awful lot of stuff happening too soon.
Mostly, I just wanted to spend more time with Trey, Eddy, Candy, and Sanders. I wanted to see more of their hijinx and eavesdrop on their foul-mouthed and unerringly accurate teenage talks. Adult Trey tells the part of his psyche haunted by Eddy and the ghosts of '92 that this is a story of only a few miles, but I could have gone for a longer journey and wouldn't have minded clocking a few more miles through Bay's End.
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