Actual rating: 2.5. If there's one thing I've learned from this year's crop of books, it's that you should be aware of what you put in your body.In Japan, they have a specific type of manga and anime called "shounen manga," meaning "young men's manga." The category is specifically targeted towards adolescent males, around 13+ years of age. it generally contains little to no romance, few significant female characters, and is exemplified by constant action, humor, guts and glory, and focuses on the (purely platonic) camaraderie and relationship between the male characters within.That's the best category into which I can fit this book. The characters are very juvenile, very clichéd. Their behavior and personality were extremely predictable, and I had no trouble guessing what would happen to each. There was little in this book that surprised me at all, there were no unforeseeable twists. Everyone falls solidly into their cookie cutter mold. I can definitely see where the Lord of the Rings comparison comes into play.I am not saying that GIRLS SHOULDN'T READ BOYS' BOOKS, no, I am not a traditionalist like that. However, in the sense that you probably wouldn't catch a guy reading chick lit-type of books written by Danielle Steele or Kristin Hannah, I would venture to say that this book would probably appeal more to a younger male audience. There is cursing, a lot of "fucks" flying around all over the place, there is adolescent swearing and toilet humor, but honestly, it's nothing younger kids have heard these days; if I had a little brother, he'd enjoy this book considerably more than I did.This book didn't really do much for me at all. There was a lot of very graphic scenes that were specifically designed to be gory and bloody and appealing to a certain type of audience. I was not disgusted, I was not rendered squeamish; there's a lot of (literal) blood and guts, but it didn't horrify me in a visceral sense. It was just...matter of fact. I was warned that this book would make me want to lose my lunch: that was not true. I do a lot of reading while I eat, and let me assure you that during and after the reading of this book, the contents of my stomach remain solidly (or rather, liquidly, in the literal sense) in its proper place.I am not a froofy girly girl: I absolutely love blood and gore in books, movies, games. In fact, what bumped this book to the very top of my reading list was the promise of a deliciously revolting book. It just didn't deliver on that sense for me. I was never scared, I was never thrilled, I was never horrified. I was never particularly creeped out by anything within this book. I was drawn to it initially because it was a book that claimed to have scared Stephen King. I loved Stephen King when I was younger; IT rendered me sleepless for two weeks after reading the book, so this endorsement was a promising one. I had hoped this book would deliver the frights. It didn't.I have a feeling I might have enjoyed this book a leeeeeetle bit more had I not read Mira Grant's Parasite beforehand. There were so many parallels between the two books. The premise, even the style, to some extent. Much like in Parasite, in front of some of the chapters, we are given bits and clues as to what is going on. News articles, interviews, bits of confiscated evidence in the forms of letters, diary entries, court transcripts, etc, from both the past and the future.I just felt that overall, Mira Grant does a better job of building us up and giving us a more realistic picture of what was happening behind the scenes, leading up to this point. The premise was also far more believe and well-executed than in this book. I also didn't really find these pre-chapter interjections particularly intriguing: they were rather juvenile, and some parts of it like the "interviews" were particularly awkward. Their structure, presentation, and speech patterns were lacking in flow, so that I didn't feel like they could actually have happened. The only thing this book does better is the descriptions; they may not be sufficient for me, but they are quite graphic, and I'm sure other readers with less of a steel-clad stomach as mine would enjoy them---or not, as the case may be.I didn't have a problem with how the story flowed. The plot progressed along in a good manner, and I was never confused. It did drag on in place, especially in the beginning, when we were being introduced to the boys and their squabbles and I just found myself wondering "IS THERE A POINT TO ALL THIS?" The writing is good...but it leans towards purple-prosy in some points, and I had a lot of problem with the overwrought and overextended use of really strange metaphors. They were seriously all over the book, and they were so weird. From moons like bone fishhooks, to Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone, to dewy fields spread with dead crickets, to warm dough studded with busted lightbulbs...I was left shaking my head. The writing in this book would have been fine if it didn't sound like it was trying too hard. It's supposed to be a horror book, leave the strange attempts at poetic writing out of it.The plot: um, this book would have been over a whole lot sooner (like at the very beginning) if not for some extremely stupid decisions made at by the sole adult and Scoutmaster, Dr. Tim Riggs. Honestly, for a doctor, he's a real fucking moron. The rest of the plot hinged upon his idiotic decisions, and so it was pretty much ruined for me from the beginning because of my sense of disbelief. I will not reveal what the idiocy entails, even if it takes place at the beginning of the book, but along the scale of idiocy, it's roughly the equivalent of a book's Big Reveal hinging upon something that you could have solved with a 5-second Google search.The other characters within the book, the boys, were so utterly banal and clichéd. We have 5 characters, who are essentially tropes.Kent: the alpha male. A bulky, idiotic, simple-minded gorilla of a brute.Ephraim & Max: the polar opposite and highly unlikely pair of best friends. Ephraim is the perpetually angry, short-tempered son of a jailbird, he's stupid, barely literate, and explodes at the drop of a hat. Max, the gentle, introspective, calm and even-tempered guy to whom everyone turns.Shelley: the creepy guy who blends in like a shadow, whom nobody expects to do much, the devious, manipulative little asshole that nobody ever notices.Newton: the nerd. The overweight, perpetually bullied, overly sensitive, very intelligent, "nurturing," gentle boy.Spare me. The majority of the book comprises of them squabbling and fighting and generally being little shits to one another. It got to the point where I felt like their character were caricatures of pre-adolescent boys, because the stereotypes were so bad and their behaviors were so exaggerated. Were it not for the fact that I know the author is male, I would have guessed that this is a female author's overextended and melodramatic view of how teenaged boys behave. The characters did not feel real to me at all.Recommended for a younger male audience with ample suspension of disbelief.This book was given to me for review by Netgalley.