Good Neighbors, Sarah Langan: A Review
As a former high school English teacher who loved teaching The Crucible, I was intrigued by the comp titles for Good Neighbors and was thrilled to be approved for en eARC through NetGalley.
Set in a near future in a cookie cutter suburban neighborhood, Good Neighbors follows the lives of the citizens of Maple Street as a sinkhole opens up. When Rhea's daughter Shelley falls in and a troubling accusation is made, doubts about why Shelley was near the sinkhole in the first place turn to fears, and the easiest targets become the Wildes, the newest addition to Maple Street who don't quite fit the mold of what the community is supposed to be. Is there merit to the story? Or is there something more nefarious lurking beneath the pristine surface?
I loved this book.
While it took me a minute to adjust to the narrative voice over the first few chapters, I couldn't put it down. The mixed media structure, alternating from book excerpts to interviews to flashbacks, worked really well to keep the intrigue up and tensions high. The sinkhole storyline was by far my favorite, focusing on the children of Maple Street in a defining moment in their lives. The dialogue was spot-on, and the tone felt both nostalgic and fresh, reminiscent of some of my favorite Stephen King novellas. I think anyone who likes their suspense with a dash of coming-of-age horror will find this appealing, as well.
But there's a lot more going on here than a darkly-entertaining search in a sinkhole. Langan does a fantastic job of highlighting contemporary social issues that will resonate for years to come: shifting cultural paradigms, racism and ableism, abuse and identity, reputation, sameness versus othering--all of these are explored through the interactions and observations of this illustrious community. One of the most important issues we see is climate change and its effect on the neighbors. I enjoyed the subtle references to the environmental catalyst--the escalating heat, the increasing frequency of sinkholes, the collapse of certain industries as companies move into more remote capabilities. It's a fascinating study on where we're headed, and as someone who is frequently terrified of the repercussions of global warming, this added an undercurrent of terror that was above the mob mentality of the neighbors. There is an inescapable danger, and while it might not be where Rhea or Gertie are looking, it certainly can't be ignored.
Overall, Good Neighbors is an engrossing, smart, terrifying read that will make you question what it means to be a good neighbor. For fans of Desperate Housewives and things that go bump in the night, add Good Neighbors to your TBR ASAP. Out in February, this is one you won't want to miss.
Big thanks to Atria and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.