Chase Novak (pseudonym for Scott Spencer) starts out with the reader meeting Alex and Leslie Twisden, a wealthy Manhattan couple, madly in a very Happily Ever After, devil-may-care kind of love. They live on the Upper East Side, in a beautiful town house that has been in Alex's family for generations. Alex is a well-known, highly successful lawyer, and Leslie has a respected position as an editor of children's books. Their life together is perfect, except for one thing: they want a child. They want a child badly, especially Alex; he is a bit older than Leslie and considers adoption a very last resort, if it's to be an option at all. He's old-fashioned and wants a proper heir; he wants to continue the Twisden line, and that means leaving a genetic legacy. Money is no object, but while it can purchase every known treatment at every possible clinic with every fertility specialist they can find, no amount can guarantee that Leslie will conceive.
Just when they're about ready to give up on trying to get pregnant, they hear about a doctor in Slovenia who has nearly a 100% success rate with his fertility treatment. They've never heard of this man before, and they know nothing about what the actual treatment entails, but they are desperate. When they get to the doctor's office, the place is questionable and the doctor himself seems like a madman, but they go through with the painful procedure anyway, and sure enough, it works. It works so well, in fact, that Leslie becomes pregnant with twins.
Ten years later, the side effects of the treatment have taken a tremendous toll on both Alex and Leslie, and they've closed themselves off from the outside world, for the most part. They take turns walking the children to and from school each day, but beyond that, life is spent in secret. So secret, in fact, that much of what goes on in their once-luxurious home is a mystery even to the twins. Adam and Alice are smart, though, and have long since realized that there is something very "off" about the way they live and the way their parents behave. For one thing, they don't quite understand why they need to be locked in their rooms at night.
Adam's been spying on his parents, though, by listening to them at night through their old baby monitor, and what he hears makes him more and more uneasy. Slowly, he begins to fear for both his and his sister's lives, and one night, they run away. Finally out in the world, the twins begin to learn the very terrifying answers to both the questions they've asked and those they've been afraid to ask. Their situation, they find, is worse than they could ever have imagined, and the most horrifying truth of all is that there may not be anything they can do to escape it.
Holy. Shit. This book is crazy and creepy and I'm writing this review now, even though it's almost 2am, because I just finished reading and I got so into it that I've creeped myself out too much to sleep yet. Kind of sad, yes, but that is how I am with books and movies like this.
When I read the description of this book on LibraryThing Early Reviewers and requested a copy, it sounded to me like a straight-up werewolf novel. I thought maybe the parents and/or the kids are werewolves, and they terrorize Manhattan and yadda yadda yadda. But no. Well, okay, there is some terrorizing going on, but it did not play out even remotely in any of the ways I expected. The creepy suspense factor is incredibly high throughout Breed, to the point where even at my age, I was tempted to lock my bedroom door and found myself keeping an ear and an eye open lest one of my parents be lying in wait when I'd venture out to the kitchen for a drink, or to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
Page after page, I was very conflicted as to how I should feel about Alex and Leslie. I loved the twins, Adam and Alice; their intelligence and resolve, their sweetness and their ability still to trust and love after everything they've been through made my heart go completely out to both of them. But their parents. At the beginning of the book, of course, I felt bad for them because infertility in couples desperately wanting to conceive is sad. Once the book kicked in to when the twins are ten and things have been happening, I would go from being disgusted with Alex and Leslie, to feeling sorry for them again, to feeling kind of enraged at them and then back to pity again. Ultimately, their situation is so complex that I don't know if it would be possible to feel any one set way about them.
I found myself really feeling for the secondary characters in the book as well. Novak writes in such a way that every person he introduces you to specifically is brought into the story with a purpose. While secondary, they each play a very important part in the events that unfold, and they all seemed to have their own levels of complexity and inspired some level of an emotional cocktail, the same as was evoked by the Twisden family. Because no character and no event mentioned in Breed is "accidental" or mentioned for fluff, the pace of the book is fairly constant. I don't think I felt it ever slowed down, and since things aren't exactly resolved at the end, I still have a lingering sense of uncertainty and maybe a little dread. I think fans of Stephen King would probably not be disappointed with Chase Novak and Breed.
Series info: What came before this book? What's next?
* Breed (Book 1)
- Brood (Book 2)
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