Zakk reviews The Awakening by Brett McBean

“Ex Libris: The Eyes of Madness, simple reviews from a simple reader…”

Zakk reviews The Awakening by Brett McBean, 462 pages published by Bloodshot Books, 2016.


Welcome to the small Midwestern town of Belford, Ohio. It’s a quiet, friendly town. On one corner of Main Street you’ll find Barb’s Corner Store. Opposite you’ll see the town square, with its neatly trimmed lawn and statuesque gazebo. There’s everything you need here. There’s even a local bogeyman. You know the type: reclusive, looks a little strange. The person all the kids are afraid of. Every town has one. Except this one is stranger than most.

Meet Mr. Joseph. With his severely crooked neck and nasty facial scar, the old man from Haiti is the one resident all the kids whisper about and are scared to go near. But there are things about Mr. Joseph no one knows about. He has no heartbeat. No breath passes by his lips. And he has been dead for over ninety years.

It’s summer vacation and fourteen-year-old Toby Fairchild is looking forward to spending a lazy, carefree summer playing basketball, staying up late watching monster movies, and camping out in his backyard with his best friend, Frankie.

But then tragedy strikes. And out of this tragedy an unlikely friendship develops between Toby and the strange old man across the street, Mr. Joseph. Over the course of a tumultuous summer, Toby will be faced with pain and death, the excitement of his first love, and the underlying racism of the townsfolk, all while learning about the value of freedom at the hands of a kind but cursed old man.

Every town has a dark side. And in Belford, the local bogeyman has a story to tell.


The Awakening is a rather large book, clocking in at almost 500 pages, requiring a bit of a commitment from you before cracking that cover. But rest assured that commitment will be returned three fold in the form of an immersive, rich coming of age yarn.

The coming-of-age story has been pretty prevalent this summer, really though, what better time for it? It’s a timeless sub-genre that any reader can connect with and Mr. McBean does a phenomenal job tapping into the emotions and pitfalls of growing up when you are not at the top of the social food chain. The youths of this tale are accessible, relatable. Their challenges, tangible. In fact all of the characters here have depth and dimension, driving this book.

He also does a wonderful job depicting idyllic small town mentality and the xenophobia & mob mentality that sets in when something “different” dares to assimilate a small town. Many of the differing personalities here will make you angry before the journey is over. Brace yourself and strap in.

This is my second Brett McBean read in the past few months and the second time he’s entertained me. Brett seems to have a knack for keeping the reader emotionally invested. That’s a great skill to possess. I need to peruse his back catalogue and find some more gems.

Read this, enjoy this.

Overall score: 4.5/ 5

Zakk is a big dumb animal!

**Note: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher/ publicist on the promise of an honest review. These are my unbiased feelings.

Brett McBean, Biography

Brett McBean is an award-winning horror and thriller author. His books, which include The Mother, The Last Motel and Wolf Creek: Desolation Game, have been published in Australia, the U.S., and Germany. His latest book, The Invasion, was published by Sinister Grin Press and has been optioned for a movie.

He’s been nominated for the Aurealis, Ditmar, and Ned Kelly awards, and he won the 2011 Australian Shadows Award for his collection, Tales of Sin and Madness.

He lives in Melbourne with his wife, daughter and German shepherd.

Find out more at:

Praise for The Awakening

“A story that raises itself above a simple horror tale, THE AWAKENING resonates with heart while applying just the right amount of chills. Highly recommended!” – Ronald Malfi, author of THE NIGHT PARADE

“THE AWAKENING is a riveting and fascinating novel that really grabs readers. I loved that it’s a coming of age novel that thrusts readers into the story and won’t let them go. Brett McBean was already one of my favorite authors but The Awakening is one of the best books I’ve read in years, and I can’t recommend it highly enough!” – John R. Little, author of THE MEMORY TREE, MIRANDA, and URSA MAJOR

“A coming-of-age tale that hit me in the gut, THE AWAKENING ranks up there with James Newman’s MIDNIGHT RAIN, SUMMER OF NIGHT by Dan Simmons, and THE BODY by the grand master of them all, Stephen King. This is one that you’ll recommend to your friends for years to come.” – Pete Kahle, author of THE SPECIMEN

“The Awakening is on par with Stephen King’s story, The Body, which was the basis of the movie “Stand By Me.” It is a story that, at times made me chuckle and also brought me to tears, more than once. When the truth is revealed, it was unexpected and enlightening.” –Frank Errington

Purchase Links


Want to feature this book/author?
If you are a blogger, author, or member of the media and youwould like to feature The Awakening or Brett McBean in a review or interview, please contact Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at Thanks!

And while you’re here, check out The Eyes of Madness at:


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