By: Angie Haddock
For over a year, the Bronx has been plagued by sudden disappearances that no one can explain. Sixteen-year-old Raquel does her best to ignore it. After all, the police only look for the white kids. But when her crush Charlize’s cousin goes missing, Raquel starts to pay attention—especially when her own mom comes down with a mysterious illness that seems linked to the disappearances.
I don’t usually veer into the horror genre, but this one was billed as “Stranger Things” meets “Get Out,” so I thought I’d give it a try. It is spooky season, after all. And it’s YA, new-ish, has diverse characters… so there are some topics I love involved here.
The action centers around a “game” that mostly college-aged kids play. It’s one of those dare things, like saying Bloody Mary or playing with a Ouija board. This one involves getting on the subway late at night, and heading in one direction without looking back. You want to stay in the game for a full hour, but not get off the train. What happens to the people who fail to follow the directions differs slightly by location, but basically you are brought into the “Echo.” This is a memory from an earlier, and terrible, time in the history of wherever you are. So, it might be a different time/era in London than it is in New York, for example. It all depends on the local history.
Our story takes place in the Bronx, and our main character is Raquel. Several kids from the area have already gone missing over the course of the past year, and no one really has any leads. But then, a friend’s cousin disappears. And Raquel’s mom, who works at the hospital, gets infected with something the doctors can’t identify. In talking with each other, the girls think these two things might be linked. They learn about the game, and decide they will have to try it for themselves to help Raquel’s mom.
They actually end up going into the Echo twice. The first time, Raquel’s friend, Charlize, gets left behind. Raquel comes back affected by what she’s been through, but she’s determined to go back for Charlize. She enlists another friend and his brother to go back in with her. This time, though, she has some ideas of what she wants to tackle during her hour inside.
The Bronx Echo takes the kids back into a time when slumlords were letting buildings burn – or maybe even burning them down on purpose? – for the insurance money. A lot of people were rendered homeless, and some died in the fires. Even many who didn’t die right then became plagued with health issues stemming from living in poor conditions, smoke inhalation, etc.
This story contains a lot of imagery that is scary – whether it’s of fires that really took place, or of zombies that were probably not a real part of the history. But it also talks a lot about community, and how neighbors relied on each other to rebuild and make the Bronx better. Taking matters into their own hands was their way out, and our main characters adopt that same attitude about the Echo itself.
I did not feel like there was anything too grotesque in here. But there is a lot of action, and it’s a fun ride.
This book came out earlier this year. I was able to read it for free through the Sourcebooks Early Reads program.