The Neighbors by Ania Ahlborn

Andrew Morrison is twenty-three years old and still lives with his mother. Employed by the local Kroger and with no college education, Drew is dedicated to supporting and enabling his alcoholic, agoraphobic mommy. After years of self-neglect, Drew finally throws a temper tantrum and abruptly moves into the degenerate bachelor pad of his childhood friend, Mickey. Mickey’s home is dilapidated, beyond filthy, and chiefly features a mysteriously locked room. Oh, the suspense!

Jobless and only marginally disheartened by Mickey’s odd home and behavior, Andrew gravitates towards the immaculate house next door, inhabited by the equally immaculate Red and Harlow Ward. Andrew develops a bond with the two, especially Harlow, and finds himself filling the “son” position in an idealistic nuclear family for the first time since early childhood. Predictably, these picturesque neighbors are not what they seem, as Harlow’s personal issues are far more perverted than those of mommy.

I was a big fan of Ania Ahlborn’s first novel, Seed because it was a typical horror novel in as many ways as it wasn’t. Ahlborn was clearly a new author, but one with a good first effort and great potential. Sadly, The Neighbors falls victim to the sophomore slump. Although the novel moves quickly, the finer plot points are sloppy and collectively create a disappointing end result. We are clearly meant to be disturbed by Harlow’s behavior, particularly in the bedroom. However, we are only given vague hints towards what exactly about her sexual antics is so frightfully terrifying to young Andrew. It is as if Ahlborn is censoring her material for us when there is no need – we’re big kids, Ania, we can handle it. Much like Chase Novak’s Breed, Ahlborn seems to be confused regarding the age group of her intended audience (thanks for pointing this out, Mrs. Carugati!). She vividly writes about blood and gore, but she can’t write a sex scene to save her life.

Predictable and suitable for audiences accustomed to Disney flicks, The Neighbors is a pile of melodramatic mush that I could have done without.

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