It’s Christmas Eve and teenager Elliot isn’t just scared, he’s terrified. This isn’t the type of fear you have when you realise you’ve forgotten to buy your mam a Christmas present. This is the ‘fear of fear itself’. A gnawing, unrelenting monster or, as described by Elliot, ‘a howling demon whirling around’ inside. The only relief he gets is through his medication but when this runs out, Elliot faces a terrible choice. He must either leave his house to face the terrors outside or stay at home and wait to be swallowed, screaming, by the absolute fear within.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Elliot, someone nearby is planning to rob a bank and doesn’t care who he has to hurt in order to ensure success. A teenage boy consumed by fear; a cold-hearted and cruel criminal determined to get what he wants. All fears, both real and imagined will soon converge.
In his depiction of a young person wracked with extreme anxiety, Brooks thoughtfully conveys the struggles and anguish faced each day. Some may find the first part of the book slow moving and repetitive as Elliot obsesses over his final pill. However, this allows the reader to better empathise with Elliot and also adds to the claustrophobic tension. Elliot’s conversations with his dead sister are disconcerting yet intriguing. Are they imagined? This ambiguity only adds to the tense atmosphere.
Despite the slow start, this book soon gathers momentum to become a thrilling, captivating read.