After a tragic boating accident when he was 3 years old that left him without a leg and without a father, 16 year old Harrison Harrison, known to his mother Rosa as H2 (short for Harrison Squared), joins his mum on her marine research trip to Dunnsmouth, Massachusetts. With the intent of studying the colossal squid off the coast, the duo look to be stuck in the creepy, old-fashioned town of Dunnsmouth for a couple of months which means, like it or not, Harrison has to get used to living in the area the best he can, even with the non-existant cell phone coverage and lack of internet. Just as he begins to acclimatise to his temporary home, his mother goes missing on a boating trip. Though the police and coastguard call off the search and presume her to be dead, Harrison refuses to give up hope, convinced that his mum is still alive and that the people of Dunnsmouth are keeping secrets… secrets of the supernatural kind.
Inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft, Daryl Gregory’s HARRISON SQUARED is a teen, fantasy, adventure thriller packed with life-threatening dangers, mysterious cults and ancient sea creatures. Fans of H.P. Lovecraft will already be familiar with the sorts of themes touched upon in this book, with even the coastal town of Dunnsmouth a homage to Lovecraft’s towns of Innsmouth and Dunwich, all of which reside in New England. Harrison Squared acts as a gateway to Lovecraft for younger readers, with its use of modern language, likable, youthful characters and adventurous storyline that will capture the reader’s imagination.
HARRISON SQUARED is such an easy book to get stuck into. It’s approach and wit is contemporary and talks to the reader on an informal level which makes it engaging and easy to get engrossed in. The dialogue is realistic and fresh and even has a heartwarming charm to it, particularly when Harrison’s city slicker aunt Selena comes to stay. The banter between nephew and aunt is terrific and their chemistry alone will keep you entertained. Harrison’s varied interaction with the locals of Dunnsmouth will keep you guessing too. Can he trust Lydia, the serious girl at school? Does Principal Montooth have Harrison’s best interests at heart? When Harrison’s mother goes missing, the adventure really kicks in as he begins to investigate and unravel mysteries about her disappearance, Dunnsmouth and his life.
Dealing with monsters and the kind, it’s expected that there’ll be a horror element to the book. Although it’s not a scary novel in the traditional sense, it will still instil fear into you with its bleak scenarios, supernatural creatures and mightmarish locations described at each turn of a page. An unspeakable evil and eerieness lurks beneath the surface of the book throughout. Though tales of terror might not always be front and centre, it’s always there, lurking in the background and never out of the reader’s mind from the minute you read the prologue. That is enough in itself to give you the chills.
At 269 pages, HARRISON SQUARED isn’t a long book but manages to tell its story in its entirety, without useless filler, whilst keeping the reader on the edge of their seat. There’s never a dull moment, particularly when the lead character is a charismatic young man who’s not only smart but independent, and his adventure is as much ours as his as he uncovers the secrets of not only Dunnsmouth, but his own past.
A tense, gripping and delightfully entertaining young adult novel, HARRISON SQUARED is a must-read piece of fiction for Lovecraft newbies and veterans alike.