Willy Review
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With his newest release, Willy, author Robert Dunbar gives readers a look inside a slightly disturbed young boy’s life through his journal. Experiences can shape a person’s psyche, and if those experiences are bad, it can sometimes drive a mind to insanity. In Willy, all of the young characters are damaged in one form or another, but they appear to be somewhat okay—until you scratch beneath the surface.

The story begins when the nameless narrator once again gets transferred to another school because of problems in his last. This time, he ends up in an isolated school with other boys who are on their last chance of recovery. Each has his own reasons for being there, though they hide it well. Then the charismatic and outlandish Willy arrives and brings some happiness and minor mischief into their lives—especially the storyteller’s. But is he really their salvation—or their damnation?

As the boy scribbles in his journal, he grows more and more attached to Willy—almost to the point where he can’t function without him. Willy is what it’s like to be alive, and the boy seeks that feeling like no other. But Willy has another side—a strange and withdrawn persona where he disappears inside himself. Though he can’t help it, the boy wants to reach into that madness and touch it.

As you read Willy, you’ll spend a lot of time pondering what, exactly, is wrong with these boys. The mystery lies within the unclearness of it all—something gloomy blends with their normality to the point that it almost gives you the chills. The boy appears to improve, but something in the back of your mind tells you that it’s not real; it’s only temporary.

The boy and Willy evoke a sense of protectiveness, and you’ll find yourself hoping that they can come out clean on the other side of psychosis. You may even question why you’re so drawn to Willy. Something is definitely not right with him, yet, like the boy, you’ll find it nearly impossible not to want to be in his presence. Could it be that we all crave a taste of darkness in our lives?

Shadowy images and vague referrals about the boys may frustrate readers who prefer a clearer picture of their characters, but that would have made Willy less of a fascinating read. Trying to interpret the story’s psychological aspects is what makes this novel such a challenging and satisfying story. And the ending, though it may irritate some readers, is nothing less than clever.

I don’t pretend to understand everything about Willy—much was still unclear to me when I reached the end—but I do know that it kept me in its grip and compelled me to keep turning pages. Sometimes, the best novels are those that leave you with questions—and Willy is one of those. Psychological horror has a new name—and it’s Robert Dunbar.

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