James Morris excels at finding the right voice when it comes to a YA narrator, and I’ve been a fan of his work for awhile now. Screams You Hear is a step into a much darker pool for Morris, and this novel is layered with moments that will have even the most jaded reader needing a moment to come up for air.
The concept is great, a young high school girl living on a small island off the Pacific Coast uncovers what could be a pathological outbreak resulting in extreme violence from those infected. What’s worse, only adults seem to be the ones who come down with the disease. The novel is interwoven with Ruthie being back on the mainland, horrifically burned as possibly one of the only survivors, then retelling her tale as we’re transported into the past and the events that unravel. The back and forth work extremely well even as we begin to question Ruthie’s telling of the story, and provides for some twists that wouldn’t work any other way.
As per usual with Morris’s writing, the setting is fantastic and used to full effect, heightening the drama of the bizarre outbreak that occurs. Combine that with some excellent character moments and some jaw dropping scenes to create a story you won’t find anywhere else. The one issue I have with the book is I felt it didn’t know what it wanted to be. At times it felt YA suspense, at times it entered into the darkest caverns of horror, but the juxtaposition didn’t fully mesh and left me a little uncertain as to what it was trying to accomplish. Of course that could be part of the point, the extreme moments meant to crush your ideas of a relatively safe young adult themed world.
Surprising and fresh, this was definitely worth the read, and it’s fun seeing Morris flex his muscles and redefine the boundaries of your normal genres.