There’s a darkness lurking in The Bright Lands, and it’s apt to give you a case of the shivers. John Fram’s debut novel is “Friday Night Lights” meets “Supernatural,” but it’s an enticing read any way you slice it.
Things start innocently enough (don’t they always?), as Dylan Whitley enjoys being the star quarterback for the Bentley, Texas, high school football team. Dylan has brought the team to the verge of winning the state championship while attracting the attention of college scouts, the adoration of players and fans alike and the enmity of rival schools and bullies.
But Dylan—who should be riding high on his on-the-field success and the myriad college offers about to come his way—is mysteriously despondent when he texts his older brother, Joel, a successful New York businessman. He hates the town (“it’s like I hear this town talking when I sleep”) and feels trapped (“i can’t sleep i can’t eat i can’t go to the bright lands”).
Joel, who fled the town’s persecution and bigotry after he came out, reluctantly flies home with plans of whisking Dylan out of there, only to arrive too late. Within days of Joel’s arrival, Dylan disappears while on a fishing trip with teammates and later turns up dead, his body ravaged by an unknown killer.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: John Fram shares what it’s like to be compared to Stephen King.
The only clues—and it’s not really a clue at all, but more of a nagging dread—are the nightmarish dreams Joel and many other Bentley residents have been experiencing of late, dreams of a dark presence and a dread place called the Bright Lands.
Joel and Sheriff’s Deputy Starsha Clark, who is still haunted by the disappearance of her own brother years ago, must team up to solve the weird happenings and restore some semblance of peace and sanity to the town—or die trying.
Fram, who was raised in Texas before moving to New York, effortlessly captures the reader’s attention with his fleshed-out characters and all the dark secrets you could want in this gripping debut.