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  • Mandy McHugh

The Loop, Jeremy Robert Johnson: A Review

Wow, I loved this book so much.

Usually, I give a few brief sentences about the rationale behind choosing the title I'm reviewing, but after finishing The Loop, announcing my adoration felt much more appropriate. Pitched as Stranger Things and World War Z, I had high hopes for an immersive apocalyptic read that did NOT revolve around a virus, and boy, did I get it. Lucy is dealing with the stress from witnessing a horrific attack in her classroom. With her friends Bucket and Brewer, she decides to go to the caves on the outskirts of town for a party, unwind and forget the tragedy for a bit, but what they get is far more than they expected. Something seems to be infecting the affluent kids who live in The Exchange, causing violent outbursts and unabashed glee. Lucy and her friends need to escape from the caves, save their families, and find a way to survive the night--but what awaits them as they head into town is a bloody trail of carnage and life-changing destruction. This book. Where do I even start? Lucy is a superb MC. Tough, conflicted, compassionate, and real, she's got everything you want in a burgeoning apocalyptic heroine. I particularly loved her internal reflection on the horrible things she's forced to do, acknowledging that some part inside her had always yearned for the violence. She's frightened by this realization but doesn't shy away from it, instead embracing the survivalist in her and relishing the control it gives her in an impossible situation. Even before this, we see her trying to make sense of who she is, what it means to be an adopted orphan from Peru, what she wants for herself, how she wants others to view her, how to amend the memories of her past with her current family life--all while navigating being one of only two brown kids in the town and the Otherness she feels--this is a powerful examination of identity that should not be shirked or dismissed because of the overarching subject matter of a scientific experiment-gone-wrong; and where Lucy succeeds as a character--I'm hesitant to say Final Girl because she's so much more than that moniker implies--is when she finds a way to unite her separate ideas of herself in one superb moment (that I will not discuss because spoilers, but wow). Additionally, JRJ writes with gusto, breathing life into this horror with the apparent ease of riding a bike. A simple thought or a brutal description, there is no short supply of imagery here, and the cinematic world-building is a masterclass in sci-fi horror. It's hard to bring a unique take to the genre--zombies, alien, apocalypse--but The Loop combined all my favorite elements from past takes into one visceral, never-ending roller coaster ride through the deadliest night Turner Falls has ever seen. Fast-paced, brutal, and beautifully terrifying, The Loop is an 11/10 must-read for 2020. I could've read this book all day and will definitely be reading it again. Big thanks to Gallery/Saga and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.

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