This is a great set up for the novel, The Bird Eater, authored by Ania Ahlborn who wastes no time creating an atmosphere of malevolent horror. From the opening chapter which details the gruesome death of Aaron’s aunt, the scares are quite unusual and deftly described. The ghost boy makes his appearance early, and every passage with him drips with creepiness.
Unfortunately, the author struggles with maintaining the intense unnerving tone. One significant reason is an unnecessary shift in points of view. When we read the account from Aaron’s perspective, the story is rich with the inner turmoil of the main character – and this elevates the sense of dread. However, for some reason, the author changes points of view to other characters (some quite minor – which prompted some head scratching on my part), and these characters are not well developed. Their perspective does not add anything to the story, and at times brings the suspense to a halt because their views are redundant. In fact, there were times that I could not tell whose head I was in. So, an unfortunate choice.
Interestingly enough, the story line that stretched credibility was the love angle. Aaron reunites with his old middle school friends, one his old girlfriend. Evidently, the woman has been carrying a torch for Aaron for twenty years. Did I mention that they were 14 when they last saw one another? The intensity of her emotions is way out of perspective for something that occurred two decades earlier among middle schoolers. When the point of view shifts to the woman, the narration becomes implausible.
Another issue is the lack of a story arc. While the scenes are chilling when the ghost is present, there is no movement in the plot. What you learn in the first 25% of the book is essentially the story. Similarly, many characters “know” the story and all it would take is for someone to talk about the “elephant in the room” or for someone to ask a question. But that doesn’t happen, sadly enough.
Overall, despite the problems within, I liked The Bird Eater for the chilling ghost depictions and the emotional travails of Aaron Holbrook. I actually liked the ambiguity concerning the ghost and his backstory. That made things even a bit more unsettling. So, a strong 3 star read.