The Flock by Chris Sauter
A suspenseful page-turner that will keep you guessing from beginning to end, Chris Sauter’s The Flock is an engaging and tantalizing read that will stay with you long after you finish it. Cole is a somewhat strange and unattractive teenager who has undergone a lot of hardships in his life. The fact that he is gay and often feels like an outcast is only one of his problems. When he meets a handsome boy named Joe in his art class, he decides to do whatever it takes to get Joe to be with him. When his actions ultimately lead him to starting a cult with himself in place as a leader known as the Prophet, Cole begins to realize that he’s getting in over his head. Nightly seances with a group of teenagers conjuring spirits quickly turns into a sort of religion with prophecies and strict rules. At first it’s fun, and Cole can tell that Joe and the others really believe he has the power to communicate with spirits and prophesize what’s ahead. Really, Cole is just making up things as he goes, astounded that people are looking to him for answers. The narrative shifts back and forth from Cole’s time as the leader of the cult, to present day where he is a middle aged man suffering from a debilitating hearing loss. The two timelines eventually converge as present day Cole is reconfronted with the cult he thought he had left behind, realizing that The Flock will never truly let him go.
What makes The Flock such a memorable read is the fact that you can never really decide whether or not to trust Cole as the narrator of the story. He is the epitome of the anti-hero, as sometimes you are cheering for him to succeed, while other times you will feel aghast at what he has done. There are many themes present that readers will be able to relate to, the desire to belong, going to great lengths to get someone to like you, making up lies to get what you want, only to find your plans stretching out of control and blowing up in your face. The fact that Cole is gay is definitely a very integral part of the book, and Sauter does a great job of making Cole’s struggles poignant, even though at many times the scenarios presented are somewhat cringeworthy. There are many scenes throughout the novel that are both surprising and alarming. Nevertheless, the book has a heart, as Cole truly never tries to cause anyone harm, no matter how twisted his actions may appear at times. By combining elements of religion, relationships among teenagers, abuse, psychological trauma, and the winning elements of a thriller, The Flock is the kind of book that you will want to tell your friends about.
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