Book review: Never Let Me Sleep by Jennifer Brozek

Never Let Me Sleep was a bit of a mixed bag for me, with quite a few things I enjoyed, but also quite a few others that rubbed me the wrong way. The blurb certainly sounded like a good YA horror, something I don’t have much experience with and wanted to get into. The main character Melissa is interesting because she’s both bipolar and schizophrenic, meaning that even as she’s fighting skittering horrors, she’s got to question whether any of this is really happening or not. It’s a good perspective for a horror story, and a nice change of pace from the almost constant stream of thirty-something alpha dude protagonists I typically read about in horror.

The premise itself is plenty scary. A girl on house arrest wakes up one morning to find everyone in her town is dead, and the company monitoring her advises her to check the news and discover that a much larger area has fallen victim to something insidious and lethal. Anyone attempting to enter the area quickly falls victim to the same malady, and so, being the only survivor in the quarantine zone, Melissa is tasked with finding the source of this attack and stopping it. Very quickly, she discovers she is being hunted by the monsters behind this plot, and she must fight for her life every few minutes. Sounds pretty intense, right? And it is, for the most part.

But, there is something that didn’t sit right with me early on, a throwaway comment about Mel liking transitional seasons. I have some mental issues myself which are aggravated during transitional seasons, and I’ve known both schizophrenics and bipolar folks who have the same issues. The rapid up and down shift in temperatures means that one can have problems even if medication is being used and is supposedly all balanced properly so these are often the most unpopular seasons for us. I’m willing to concede that this might not be a problem for others with similar issues, but both personal and anecdotal experience made this line rub me the wrong way.

I wish that was the only problem, but there is the matter of Melissa’s age versus her experience. The story says that she’s been a shut in for most of her life because of her mental condition, and yet, she’s also familiar with the layout of the local airport, a power substation, and the radio room of the local high school, a school I’m not sure she could have attended for more than a couple months based on her backstory. And I don’t mean she just knows what they look like. She knows enough to operate the substation, and she knows enough about the airport and radio station to recognize equipment that doesn’t belong. In an older character who was more outgoing and social, I wouldn’t bat an eyelash at how she knows all this. But her expertise in a vast array of topics when she supposedly spends most of her time watching TV and is forbidden from using computers…it’s just not very believable to me.

I still enjoyed the book, and I’m sure I’ll be reading the next in the series, Never Let Me Leave. I give Never Let Me Sleep 3 stars, and recommend it to horror fans looking for something fast, tense, and only slightly gory.