Review: “My New Family,” Alec John Johnson

Pros: Fascinating premise
Cons: Clumsy writing
Rating: 3 out of 5

In Alec John Johnson’s My New Family a man who loses his family begins to obsess over the family next door. He starts small, watching them from his darkened windows at night, and then escalates to actually entering their house. Only Hazel, the wife of his ‘new family’ realizes that something is wrong.

 

There are a few out-of-nowhere hunches in this book, and one case where it seemed like two people shared a dream. Since there’s no other indication of the paranormal in the book, it was a bit odd. I’ll also say that the denouement of the story tries too hard to create the creepy ‘it isn’t over’ vibe, but it made no sense unless there’s a supernatural trigger going on. There was no indication of any such thing.

The characters–at least our main character and Hazel–had some depth to them. Oddly, I don’t remember coming across the main character’s name. That’s a little clever; it could contribute to a ‘this could happen to anyone’ vibe. The children were mostly accessories.

The writing is a bit clumsy. Words missing; bizarre bits of word substitution (like ‘tenor’ when the word wanted is ‘tenure’); some things that just don’t make sense as stated. There’s a habit of over-describing. The main character stops while on a walk to describe every last detail of the front of the house, when the details come out more naturally shortly afterward when he approaches the house. The reader ends up reading the same details over again, ‘telling’ once and ‘showing’ the next. We only need one of those two, and the latter is much better.

So to sum up: too much telling vs. showing; clumsy wording that could have used an extra edit; good premise and plot execution. It’s an okay book, but not great.

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