“It's 1992 in Bleak Creek, North Carolina, a sleepy little place with all the trappings of an ordinary Southern town: two Baptist churches, friendly smiles coupled with silent judgments, and a seemingly unquenchable appetite for pork products. Beneath the town’s cheerful façade, however, Bleak Creek teens live in constant fear of being sent to The Whitewood School, a local reformatory with a record of putting unruly teens back on the straight and narrow—a record so impeccable that almost everyone is willing to ignore the mysterious deaths that have occurred there over the past decade. At first, high school freshmen Rex McClendon and Leif Nelson believe what they’ve been told—that the students’ strange demises were all tragic accidents. But when the shoot for their low-budget horror masterpiece, PolterDog, goes horribly awry—and their best friend, Candice Boykins, is sent to Whitewood as punishment—Rex and Leif are forced to question everything they know about their unassuming hometown and its cherished school for delinquents. Eager to rescue their friend, Rex and Leif pair up with recent NYU film school grad Janine Blitstein to begin piecing together the unsettling truth of the school and its mysterious founder, Wayne Whitewood. What they find, with Candice’s life hanging in the balance, will leave them battling an evil beyond their wildest teenage imaginations—one that will shake Bleak Creek to its core.”
For the most part The Lost Causes of Bleak Creek is fun, fast-paced thriller that features a lot of nostalgia. It’s also a semi-autobiographical novel about the authors lives growing up in North Carolina in the 90s. McLaughlin and Neal have been friends since first grade and a lot of what happened between Rex and Leif parallel the boys life. They are also, apparently, now a comedy duo known for creating the Internet’s most-watched daily talk show, Good Mythical Morning (which officially makes me old, as I never heard of), along with a weekly podcast Ear Biscuits, and penned bestseller Rhett & Link’s Book of Mythicality. I also amused in their bio it mentions “they share an office at Mythical Entertainment, the company they cofounded, but live separately with their respective wives, children, and dogs in Los Angeles.” Why this needed to added is beyond me.
As for the novel, it is enjoyable, even if a bit uneven –we go well over 160 pages before the supernatural aspect is introduced (and then there is only very little in an explanation as to what this all is). The boys have a good relationship which is suddenly being threatened by them both seeing their other long time friend, Candice Boykins in a new light. Yeah, we’ve seen this before. Even the mysterious Whitewood School, designed to take rebellious teens and turn them into White, Conservative Christian Good Folks has been done a million times before (even though the authors no longer believe in a God). A lot of what this book seems designed to do –even though written for modern teen audience- is talk about growing up in the late 1980s early 90’s. Both Stephen King and Peter Straub excel at this in their tales, but here it just seems to be more inside-jokes and nods at nostalgia for the two writers.
The book, ultimately, feels empty when it should’ve shinned. Its supernatural aspect is vague and never really fully develops into horror novel one might expect. In the end, if you like R.L. Stine’s Fear Street series, this book might be for you.