J is a student at a school deep in a forest far away from the rest of the world.
J is one of only twenty-six students, all of whom think of the school’s enigmatic founder as their father. J’s peers are the only family he has ever had. The students are being trained to be prodigies of art, science, and athletics, and their life at the school is all they know—and all they are allowed to know.
But J suspects that there is something out there, beyond the pines, that the founder does not want him to see, and he’s beginning to ask questions. What is the real purpose of this place? Why can the students never leave? And what secrets is their father hiding from them?
Meanwhile, on the other side of the forest, in a school very much like J’s, a girl named K is asking the same questions. J has never seen a girl, and K has never seen a boy. As K and J work to investigate the secrets of their two strange schools, they come to discover something even more mysterious: each other.
Josh Malerman’s Inspection brings a different type of horror to the playground than Bird Box, and with it comes the idea of a world where only one gender exists–at least, that’s what the Alphabet Boys and Letter Girls are told. In this piece of work from Malerman, readers explore the depths of an abhorrently twisted coming of age tale. A place where fearmongering is the norm, where one’s genius is all that matters, and where the opposite gender is a distraction.
The Alphabet Boys and the Letter Girls are a group of kids, twenty-six of each, who are known simply by their name: a letter of the alphabet. And yet, each child has their own personality despite the controlled environment they’re raised in. I absolutely loved the way Malerman wrote the characters in this story: I felt disgust, I felt sadness, I felt hope. It’s rare that I make these kind of connections with characters lately. I also liked the use of an unlikely hero in this book, but I can’t really go into details beyond that without spoiling anything.
In Inspection, the goal is to raise children without knowledge of the outside world. The Parenthood wants these fifty-two boys and girls unsullied by the real world so their intellect takes precedence among all other things. In that regard, the plot works. Unfortunately, it’s also fairly predictable. After all, oppression leads to revolt and the manner in which the Alphabet Boys and Letter Girls are raised is more than enough for the reader to determine the outcome.
Malerman’s been a bit of a hit or miss with me, and though I love his writing, some of his work is difficult to get through. For instance, Unbury Carol was a DNF from me, where as A House at the Bottom of a Lake kept my attention throughout the story, even if in the end it was just alright. (Though that too is a coming of age story and definitely worth reading if you’re a Malerman fan.) That said, when I went into Inspection, I was wary. Of course I was stoked that I was approved for the galley, but I was also scared. In the end, that fear was pointless. This book is definitely one of my more enjoyable reads so far this year.
I’d like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book.