Cassie Larchmont’s summer is just beginning, and when her friends finally arrive at Lake Solaria to begin their vacation, everything seems perfect. They’ve even made a new friend: Nicole Morgan, a girl that’s eager to share a secret. There’s a hidden toy-room in an old house, one that has dolls, paints and puzzles; everything to keep little girls busy. But it’s not what it seems, and Nicole isn’t too happy about sharing Cassie’s friendship with Diane and Lisa.
(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)
I picked this up at the secondhand bookstore last year, and it just so happened to fit in with the Ladies of Horror Fiction readathon for Women in Horror Month (#WiHM). I didn’t find it a bad ghost story, and even though some elements irked me throughout, I was able to appreciate the engaging plot that often focused on the drama of young friendship and the stress of parenthood. There were moments I was right back as a child squabbling over the silliest of things, much like Cassie and her circle. Of course, my group of buddies didn’t include an evil spirit hellbent on killing, but that certainly would have made it much more interesting. Nicole Morgan definitely kept my attention, and as far as creepy children went, she was high up in the I’m never having kids department. However, whilst I found her decent as the antagonist, her story was entirely predictable. There was nothing groundbreaking in this title, not by a long shot, but it was entertaining.
The dialogue had to be the most awkward aspect for me personally, and I’m unsure if it was merely a by-product of the 80’s style. The plethora of exclamation marks came across as cheesy and overly theatrical, as if each character were performing on a stage. It didn’t feel natural, and that honestly can ruin the experience of any book. I had to force myself to get past it at times – to register that they weren’t actually shouting at each other constantly – but I’m glad I didn’t altogether allow it to destroy my enjoyment. Other than that, they also suffered from a case of talking to themselves out loud, which bothered me a little. Not everyone does it; I, for one, keep my thoughts locked in my head, so it strikes me as unrealistic when everyone is having a verbal conversation with thin air.
I can say there were some unexpected turns that caught me off guard. When it’s a horror involving children, I always get the sense the author will be tame in regards to the content, but that didn’t deter McNally from throwing in shocking events. I’d probably suggest avoiding the synopsis (Goodreads and elsewhere), as they tend to give almost all of it away. For me, it was best to go in blind, without knowing the specifics.
In conclusion: Somebody Come and Play surprised me, and even though I’d say its age is showing, it gave me some hours of amusement with the ghostly happenings of the Hollenbeck house. Sure, I have my complaints, as I do with everything, but I found the old-school style quite charming. I think I’ll be on the look out for more of that 80’s horror.
This thing lying on the metal table before her could be a gnarled piece of charred wood dug up after a forest fire. It was better to think that than to think it was human.
© Red Lace 2019