Pre-teens are the worst, a review of The Troop by Nick Cutter

The Troop follows 5 boy scouts and their Scout Leader partaking in a yearly camping trip up in the Canadian wilderness, on an isolated island. While on the island, an emaciated man devouring everything he can find (dirt, algae, animals, etc) stumbles across Tom and his scouts and then all hell breaks loose. One by one, the boys and Tim begin to realize that the man was infected with some sort of creature, a creature that they are now exposed to with no way to escape the island.

Look, I don’t want to beat around the bush, I hated this book. About 50 pages into the book I figured out that I hated this book and was too stubborn to just put it down and walk away. And so I continued on, flipping page after page, hoping at some point everything would click and my ever growing loathing of our main characters would dissipate. Surprising no one, this did not happen. Mainly because our main characters continued to be intolerable to be around.

Imagine a stereotypical 11-13 year old boy. Puberty is about to hit, hormones have begun to course through children’s bodies and they aren’t anywhere near mature enough yet to realize how horrible and obnoxious they are being. And in adolescent boys particular, you get an unhealthy mix of aggression and alpha male dominance as they try to figure out who will lead their social circle. Their sex drive is revving to life and so now the previous gross out talk of boogers and poop become masturbation and well, we still are talking about poop except now we’re calling it shit because WE’RE MEN. And unfortunately, these are our protagonists for the entire book.

That’s not to say every 11-13 year old boy is the Absolute Worst TM but the characters in this book have no nuance.

Kent is the “leader” of the group, alpha male complex in full effect due to his cop father giving him a heightened sense of self-importance. He refuses to show Tim the scoutmaster any respect because “adults are f**ked anyway.” He bullies the other kids and asserts his dominance in stereotypical insulting ways.

Ephraim is the kid with anger management problems. Constantly about to fly into a rage, hates life, hates everyone around him, fantasizes about hurting them.

Max is Ephraim’s best friend and polar opposite, quiet and unassuming. He’s reliable and probably the least horrible of the bunch.

Shelley is creepy. That’s his defining characteristic. No one really likes him because everyone picks up on the unsettling vibe he always gives off. He hangs around in the background until he does something particularly strange to remind everyone that he probably will grow up to be the teenager who sets up cameras in the girl’s locker room.

Finally, we have Newton our nerrrrrddddddddddddd. He’s fat. He’s constantly bullied by everyone else. His mother calls him a “sensitive boy” and babies him. He brings up facts and rules in a pitiful meek voice and gets beaten for his neediness.

In a horror book or film, normally the readers should be endeared to at least one of our protagonists. We know pretty much everyone is going to die and don’t care about half of them, but there should be a couple character who we like and want to see succeed. And unfortunately, I don’t care about any one of these blundering idiots. They’re just too one-dimensional and that dimension is simplistic teenage boy. We have a conversation early on with all the boys arguing about whether they’d want to jerk off a donkey or “finger bang” a girl in their class who is rumored to have given someone else a hand job. Everyone picks the donkey because LOL. EVEN ANIMALS ARE BETTER THAN SLUTS AMIRITE???

::sighs::

If you don’t mind caricatures of over masculine teenage boys then you might like this book. The pacing and atmosphere when the creature was doing it’s thing was well developed. Descriptions used to set the eeriness of the creature were genuinely unsettling. With other characters, I would have better enjoyed the way the boys start observing each other for the slightest hint of infection with increasing suspicion. Someone’s stomach is rumbling, is that legitimate hunger or signs that the creature is slowly taking over and turning him into an ever consuming and dangerous fiend? But unfortunately every time we got hints and threats of infection, I was simply glad to know that we’d soon be eliminating another idiot from the troop.

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