Book Review: THOSE BELOW THE TREE HOUSE by Matt Hayward

Considering the downturn this year has taken only three months in, I’m even more grateful for the fact that I began my year with such a stellar reading lineup. In January I had the honor of beta reading THOSE BELOW THE TREE HOUSE, and it set the bar extremely high for the other books on my TBR list. After I finished this novel, I sat in my book hangover haze and thought to myself, I’m running out of ways to praise Matt Hayward’s work. I had this thought, not because I’m at loss for words, but because I don’t want to simply repeat what I’ve said before. I’ve got plenty of praise for this one, and while I don’t want to sound like a broken record, I just can’t help if I repeat some of what I’ve told you in the past. So in this review, be prepared to hear what you might already know about Matt’s work, as well as what I hope is a fresh take on the topic.

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Just give me one moment to grab my notes…

Oh, there they are! I thought I’d misplaced that file labeled “Books I Want To Hug and Call my BFF”. Turns out I’ve got it right here, and even if I’d lost it, I’d remember that this novel is on the top of that list. Let’s see what I wrote down about this one, and I’ll expand on each thought:

Tony=my favorite character

By now you’re all aware that Matt is a master at character development. It’s part of what makes his stories so authentic and relatable, and one of the main reasons why I love the writing. It’s impossible not to empathize with the characters in this story, especially the protagonist, Tony. I especially loved the moments about music and its effects on him amidst the tumult. This took me back to my own youth, and while I’m not a musician, I was practically born wearing a pair of headphones. Music was always a constant no matter how turbulent life was at the time. Before I ramble more, let’s just sum this up by saying that I think Tony is tied with Owen from Meeting Gregory for the spot of my favorite Hayward character.

This is my favorite coming of age story

You might know that I’ve struggled with coming of age stories in the past. There have only been a few that resonate with me, and this is one of them. Of all the books and stories I’ve read that fit this description, this one is my absolute favorite.

I couldn’t put this book down—finished 75% of it the first day I started reading

This is true, and will probably come as no surprise to anyone who is a fan of Matt’s work. I basically forced myself to stop reading that first night and save the remainder of the book for the following day. Then, I carried my Kindle around all day, and after work, I sat in a parking lot and finished the book before running errands. I just couldn’t wait. Isn’t that one of the best feelings when a book is so good, you carry it around all day just to sneak in a read whenever possible? You’ll have a hard time putting this one down. The story pulls you right in from the beginning, and from there the tension builds. This novel exudes everything that makes Matt’s writing great. Within its pages you’ll find the perfect combination of horror, humor, and heart (I think I’ll call this the “Triple Threat” from now on). My heart raced with suspense, broke with grief at certain points, and I had a good laugh when it was needed most.

I want to condense this book and wear it in a locket, close to my heart. Well, that was the last line of my notes, and while it might sound silly, I can’t think of a better way to describe how much I loved this novel. Things are rough for us all at the moment, but what a comforting thought to know that books are always there—amazing books like this one from Matt Hayward. In the midst of the turmoil, readers can take comfort in the fact that this novel is on the horizon.

(Review originally posted March 2020)

5/5 Stars

Publisher: Poltergeist Press

Release Date: June 11, 2020

2 thoughts on “Book Review: THOSE BELOW THE TREE HOUSE by Matt Hayward

    • It’s my favorite read this year and tied with Brain Dead Blues for my favorite Hayward book. I have no doubt you’ll love it!

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