Nevada Barnes is your average, run of the mill, hormonally supercharged fourteen-year-old. Regina Corsi, however, is decidedly atypical - a woman in her thirties, she is a hebephile and a serial killer. She seduces children, uses them to satiate her sexual desires, and then brutally murders them. Aiding her in her crimes is a strange white sheeted creature, appropriately named Ghost, who consumes Regina's victims and scrubs clean the various crime scenes in supernatural ways. Once Regina lays eyes on Nevada, neither of their lives will ever be the same...nor, I'm sure, will the small Ohioan town of Bay's End.
The Bedding of Boys is the third in Edward Lorn's Bay's End novels (there's a few short stories and novellas sets within this town's borders, as well), and although each can be read as a stand-alone work there's a hell of a lot of richness to be found throughout this series when taken as a whole. The End, as it's colloquially known, has a lot of history behind it and when read as a series you get the feel of a fully realized town, recognizing its familiar landmarks, shops, and citizens, as well as the seedy underbelly infecting this region. Bay's End is for Lorn what Derry and Castle Rock are for Stephen King. You don't have to read these books in any particular order, but I strongly recommend familiarizing yourself with Lorn's Bay's End and The Sound of Broken Ribs before hitting the sheets with this one. Feel free to ignore my advice, of course, but I suspect you'll want to know all you can about The End and its inhabitants well before this book reaches its climax.
Fair warning, though - Lorn gets into some highly fucked up terrain here. The primary thrust behind The Bedding of Boys involves a significantly older woman seducing boys much, much younger than she. Regina is, simply put, a child rapist. Lorn pulls absolutely zero punches, and right from the book's very first chapter reader's are forced to bear witness to a handful of murders and a graphically detailed sexual assault of a minor. It's shocking and vulgar and deeply unsettling, and it sets the stage for all that follows. Once Nevada is introduced in the wake of Regina's bloody mayhem, you'll instantly worry for him and your anxiety will rise in creepily steady fashion as he becomes intimately familiar with Regina.
Sex is filtered through the perspective of predator and prey, and whatever glimmers of romantic entanglements these characters may feel, Lorn never shies away from the horrific manipulations behind all of it. This isn't a Happily Ever After romance - this is straight-up horror. Sex here is a weapon, and it is wielded with profoundly deadly intent time and time again. Sex and horror have been intertwined forever, oftentimes purely for sheer titillation, or to make a point about female purity. This last point you can most surely disregard, as ain't nobody in Bay's End pure.
The Bedding of Boys has a surprising amount of depth in its themes of sexual conquest, gender roles, and the animalistic nature of passion and the pursuit for sexual pleasure. Sex begets life, and life begets death. Sex and Death are the Alpha and the Omega, and carnality comes with a cost for each and every one of these characters, rippling through time to warp both minds and bodies alike.
Like Stephen King and George R.R. Martin, Lorn enjoys flicking readers around like a yo-yo. He'll give you plenty of characters to care about, and he does an absolutely fantastic job writing teenage boys (as evidenced in the prior Bay's End), only to sucker-punch you and pull the rug out from beneath your feet. This an author who profoundly destroys his characters with masochistic glee, and there were a few times I wanted to reach out to him and ask him to stop, to leave these people alone, to not devastate them so utterly. But, hell, if I did that, it'd kinda ruin the whole point here, wouldn't it?
There's a darkness in Bay's End. You can't plead with it, and you can't stop it. You can feel the way it eddies through the streets, disrupting the whole town and its people's lives. You can feel it building toward something, too, all throughout The Bedding of Boys. Something cataclysmic. All things lead to The End, after all.
View all my reviews