809 Jacob Street
by Marty Young, Black Beacon Books, 2013
Reviewed by Kyla Lee Ward
So, just what can an author like Marty Young do in a mere 189 pages?
For starters, set up one of those fictive situations that never end well. It’s the 1980s and fourteen-year-old Byron James is new in town. A run-down country town, where there’s nothing to do except go to school and there, it’s like he’s invisible. Only the other outcasts pay Byron any attention, and they are obsessed with the so-called Monster House out on Jacob Street. Byron is sceptical of their claims, Sceptical enough to go seeking answers himself.
“He knew then he was on the verge of the magical kingdom, the one he went seeking every time he ventured to the library. If he took another step back to where Joe had been, the old homeless man would come back into view and the shadows all about him would come to life… there’d be monsters in those shadowy vestiges of the world — there’d be nothing but monsters.”
At least Byron retains something of his childish innocence (“Kids who forgot they were growing up, he’d told them”). For all the immediacy of his fears, they can still be cast in terms of ghosts and vampires, entities with recognised limits and remedies. An exhausted remnant such as Joey Blue has no such defence.