Received from author for review
Twenty years ago David Ray walked into the cafeteria of his high school with a variety of guns and proceeded to dispense his own version of vengeance against those who made his life miserable. Taking out eight of his classmates, he then turned the gun on himself.
Now, those who survived the trauma are dealing with the lasting effects in various ways. A small group of them ultimately decide to get back together at the scene of the crime to face their fears and celebrate the lives they've managed to create for themselves in the aftermath of tragedy.
Though their focus is on moving forward and not looking back, there's a entity at their school intent on making them remember. And not just remember, but live through everything again. It seems David Ray is as evil in death as he was in life, and he's ready to show those who have returned that he will never be forgotten.
Reunion catapults us into a world that is both disturbingly realistic in its focus on the horrifying trend of school violence and also frighteningly fictional as the terror of the paranormal is added to human cruelty. We are exposed to the permanent emotional, mental, and physical scars of a school shooting, our senses kicked into overdrive as we realize the trauma for the survivors is not over, but rather just beginning. The premise of Reunion is solid, the combination of real and concrete events with supernatural intangibility one that is certainly intriguing enough to have us speed-reading to see what nightmares await those who deserve nothing but peace.
While the foundation of Reunion is strong and its characters varied and likeable, there are a few drawbacks in the execution. The dialogue is often forced and lacking in emotional resonance, the words delivered with little intonation and missing the quality that brings flat black letters to life as they flow from the pages into our hearts and take root. The conversations are a bit soap-opera like in nature, sometimes crossing the line of believability to remind us we are dealing with a piece of fiction as opposed to being able to lose ourselves in interactions that feel as though they're taking place in front of and around us. Mr. Bennington provides us with the skeletons of some characters with true potential, they could just use a few additional layers to shift them from shades of gray to vibrant color.
Though the characters suffer from a small substance deficiency, Mr. Bennington does surprise us with an unexpected chain of events toward the end, ratcheting up the paranormal aspect and twisting and molding it in his own unique way. The final pages, as events and characters are wrapped up neatly and tidily (something we are grateful for after all they've survived), do dissolve into a mild case of religious preaching, however it's nothing so extensive as to be overwhelming. Despite my issues with this particular story, Mr. Bennington is an author I would read again, his imagination and ability to push a story in an unforeseen direction enough to earn my continued curiosity.