I don’t write many book reviews, but every once in a while, a piece of prose smacks me in the brain and heart so hard that I have to share its greatness with my fellow constant readers.

Sour Candy

sour-candy-kealan-patrick-burke

I discovered Sour Candy (written by Kealan Patrick Burke) via the type of product synergy that would make marketing and accounting departments swoon. It showed up on a list of titles the Goodreads algorithm thought I would like. It also had a cool looking cover, so I clicked on it. (Anyone who claims that covers play no part in a book’s ability to sell is full of it).

Upon scanning the Goodreads reviews, I saw that it had been given high praise by two people whose literary opinions I trust a great deal: Author Max Booth III and our very own Kat Stark.

Then I saw the price: Only $2.99 for Kindle, my preferred method of word consumption. The book was short (67 pages), but the opportunity to read a stand-alone novella was just too trendy to pass up.

I began reading late Monday night with the intention getting a few pages in. Instead, I read until my eyes refused to stay open. Today, I read during every spare moment I got until the reaching the end. During the final pages, you probably could have lit me on fire and I wouldn’t have noticed. Sour Candy may not have much of a word count, but it packs a full-length novel dose of superb writing wrapped in a genuinely unsettling story.

It begins with a simple enough premise. Phil goes to Walmart, where he encounters a kid that’s having a complete meltdown while the parent/guardian helplessly watches it happen. We’ve all been there, at least as an uncomfortable spectator.

But then the kid looks at Phil and smiles. Everything goes downhill from there. And don’t think for a second that this is some B.S. rip off of The Omen. The main character is put through rings of hell Dante never even thought of. Phil’s torment is crafted via a mix of common regret, existential dread, and supernatural Lovecraftian horror. Burke does a truly fantastic job reflecting Phil’s suffering into real world worries and concerns, but doesn’t skimp on the monstrous aspects (i.e. cool scary stuff), either.

I thought I saw the ending coming, but I didn’t. And then I did. And then I didn’t again. And then I got to the last line, felt something cold drop into the pit of my stomach, and went to the bathroom so I wouldn’t piss my pants. In other words, the conclusion, like the rest of the story, is great.

If you’ve got $3 and you’re looking for something great to read, you could do a lot worse than Sour Candy. Just make sure to block out some time. It won’t take more than an hour or two to finish, but that doesn’t account for the sleep you’ll lose from the resulting nightmares.

Book Review: Sour Candy
A truly terrifying and well written story that also sticks the landing.Burke does a fantastic job reflecting the main character's suffering into real world worries and concerns, but doesn’t skimp on the monstrous aspects (i.e. cool scary stuff), either.
I may have nightmares. I also may never go to Walmart or eat sour candy again. Actually, that might not be such a bad thing.
10Fantastic
Reader Rating 2 Votes
9.8
  • Andrew McGuire

    “If you’ve got $3 and you’re looking for something great to read, you could do a lot worse than Sour Candy.”

    As a matter of fact, I do, and I am. What I don’t have is Kindle. Why no print edition?

    OK, I see Kindle is free, but without a device to download it to it’s not very much use at all. Not everyone has or needs a smartphone, and while this probably is not a cunning ploy to persuade people to buy one, it’s not very helpful either.

    • RamblingBeachCat

      I understand your dilemma, but a print run for a book of less than 70 pages wouldn’t be very cost effective for anyone. It’s part of why I made that snarky comment about novellas being so ‘trendy.’ Their in-between page count makes them perfect for low-priced, single serving reads.

      Novels that don’t do a kindle + print edition, however, are an entirely different story.

      • Andrew McGuire

        Fair point, and thanks for taking the trouble to reply. It was just rather frustrating to read a review of something that made me anxious to read it, only to find I couldn’t, without buying a device I have no wish to own. I hope the novella will find into print at some point, presumably in a collection, but this seems to be what the old pulp magazines were for, and suggests there’s still a place for a modern equivalent.