Leave it to Colum over at Paperbackhorror.com to write a killer review of a novel written under one of Laymon's numerous pseudonyms. The man is nothing short of amazing! I suggest you all head over to his site and check out his fantastic reviews.
Your Secret Admirer
When one thinks of YA novels these days, it usually has something to do with sparkly vampires (an overused scapegoat, in my opinion), badly used first-person narrative, and untold amounts of emotional baggage on the part of the characters contained within the story. Granted, none of these things are bad when meted out in small doses, but the general consensus about most modern YA fiction is that it tends to club the reader over the head with an overdose of all of the above.
Richard Laymon’s Your Secret Admirer is a very welcome departure from the modern standard, and will make the reader wonder why (and when) the YA style changed so drastically. Suffice it to say, the YA story telling of yesteryear could be considered far more compelling than it’s modern kin. Couple this with a tale told by a master storyteller like Richard Laymon, and you’re in for a great treat.
You don’t know me but I know you. I know lots about you... From the moment I saw you in the park I haven’t been able to get you out of my mind. Thoughts of you fill my days and haunt my nights...
With all my heart,
Your Secret Admirer
Janice’s best friend thinks the guy who’s writing these letters is looney - and may be dangerous! After all, what kind of person goes around sending anonymous letters? But Janice is secretly thrilled about the mystery person who is in love with her. Maybe now, Mike, the guy she really likes, will hear about her secret admirer and begin to take notice!
What Laymon does with this book is magical. I can remember being a child and reading the YA horror fiction of the 80’s and 90’s, wondering how people got the ideas that they did, and why they affected me so much. Well, Laymon really brought me back with this one. The story starts off with the usual fare found in a YA novel, but with something that has become what I would call a ‘signature Laymon move’ - it starts off in the middle of the story. No introduction to characters, no boring preamble or back story, etc. Nothing but story.
Which is how it should be.
As I said, we’re launched into the action right away, with Laymon establishing his main character, introducing the titular ‘Secret Admirer’, and throwing the reader directly into the mystery at hand - all within a matter of maybe 2 or 3 paragraphs. It’s brilliant, really. The hunt goes forth, with Janice and her best friend (thankfully this book was pre-”BFF” lingo...sigh) trying to figure out who sent a letter to her with the signature reading - “Your Secret Admirer”. The lists of possibilities are presented, and the stage is set for ample amounts of fun.
What Laymon also tends to do in his books, is produce great secondary characters . Mike, the main character’s focus of interest, who is not only a solid male lead in terms of being strong and nice, but also provides a great deal of comic relief; his kid sister - Susan - who is funny, moody, and generally the closest Laymon has ever come to a “quasi-emo” character in any of his novels; and some other, more minor characters who all add top notch color to this fun little read.
And, lest you be wondering, Laymon puts one of his best baddies in here. Glen is contemptible, disgusting, brash, rude, and massively annoying. As the novel moves forward, the reader also discovers that he is dangerous, and a lot like Toby Bones - the main (and brutally horrible) bad guy in Laymon’s Come Out Tonight...only less extreme and in kid form. If you get a chance to check this book out, I can guarantee you’ll see the resemblance immediately.
It’s great to read something like this. All of Laymon’s usual scares are there, and the pieces are all put together as per usual...only in a more PG kind of way. Where Laymon would usually take his characters in a violent, often depraved adventure by any given point in his stories, here he brings them close, and then pulls them away expertly, making this a book that anyone can read - not just adults.
Laymon has one other YA novel written as Carl Laymon - Nightmare Lake, and a children’s book - The Halloween Mouse - which are also available online...but they’re somewhat rare. In A Writer’s Tale, Laymon mentions the fact that he wrote Your Secret Admirer for Scholastic and, after The Cellar was printed, never wrote another book for them again. This is a shame, as I can see almost all of his novels being adapted in a more child-centric sort of way.
So if you’re at all interested in introducing your kids or teens to Laymon, but don’t know how to go about doing it, grab a copy of Your Secret Admirer. It’s a blast, and really does contain all of the spirit present in Laymon’s adult pieces. For you die-hard fans out there...don’t miss out. Get out there and add this to your collection now.