Review: “Benny Rose the Cannibal King,” Hailey Piper

Pros: Absolutely, horrifyingly delightful!
Cons:
Rating: 5 out of 5

Hailey Piper’s Benny Rose, the Cannibal King pulls the reader into the town of Blackwood, Vermont, circa 1987. (This, in fact, was exactly when I was in high school while growing up in Vermont, so this story felt a little personal to me!) Gabrielle is the new girl in town (and in high school), and Desiree, Sierra, and Jessie set her up for a little Halloween prank with the help of Sierra’s boyfriend Paul and his friend Adrian. While the girls sit around in Gabrielle’s living room (her Grandma is off on an overnight trip with friends), they take turns telling ghost stories. Only, this being Blackwood, all the stories are about the Cannibal King, Benny Rose. All the stories are different, and many of them contain the meat of other urban legends within them. Unfortunately, tonight the girls are about to learn that Benny Rose is all too real.

The Cannibal King ate not only people, but stories that didn’t belong to him.

This is one stormy Halloween night, and soon our erstwhile heroines are trapped at Gabrielle’s Grandma’s house by rising floods. The ghost-story-telling is fun, but obviously the real story gets going once Benny Rose shows up! He’s clearly something more than human, even though a human, too, would be entirely capable of eating children. He goes around naked and little more than skeletal, and even being struck by a car doesn’t keep him down for any length of time. The girls seem more than a little outmatched, and none of the retirees living in the cul-de-sac where Gabrielle lives with her Grandma are about to open their doors. There are no Halloween decorations here. No kids walk the streets–except Gabrielle, who’s never been through a Halloween here before. There’s something wrong with this picture, but the girls are a little busy to figure it out.

I love these characters. Sierra is the one who really wants to pull a prank on Gabrielle, because her boyfriend Paul thinks Gabrielle is pretty. Desiree is the one who crafts the prank, since she’s close to Sierra and more than a little devious in her thinking. It’s unusual to have one of the prank-players, in this case Desiree, as the main point-of-view character, but Piper makes it work. Largely because the pranksters aren’t as malicious as some.

The cat-and-mouse game Benny plays with the teens is so tense! I was glued to the pages throughout. And the ending… well obviously I can’t say much about it, but I loved it. During one part I was a little glad that I wasn’t eating–cannibalism of the living is not exactly free of gore. However, neither was the book overly bloody. It was exactly right.

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