By Matteo L. Cerilli
Review by
A horrifyingly honest tale, Lockjaw will keep you guessing with its creative storytelling, while its full-bodied characters will keep you reading as they band together to kill the monster haunting their town.
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When her friend and classmate Chuck Warren dies in a “tragic accident,” Paz Espino knows the real culprit: a monster that’s been haunting the town of Bridlington. But the more she talks about the monster, the more the citizens of the town ignore her, calling her a liar and a troublemaker. So Paz and her friends set out to kill the monster themselves, determined that no more kids will die—but their hunt reveals that this strange, mysterious force is much stronger than they first thought.

Matteo L. Cerilli’s debut novel is an ambitious horror, and it succeeds in telling a story that’s both scary and profound. Lockjaw is absorbing and disorienting, with shifting perspectives and the slippery, charismatic voice of its third-person narration. Foreshadowing recurs and truths are turned on their heads, leaving readers constantly unsure of what’s coming next.

This twisted storytelling centers on the people of Bridlington. Everyone has a mask they show to others, from Paz, the “weird” kid who insists monsters are real; to Asher, the odd but charming newcomer to Bridlington; to Caleb, the all-star son of the town’s police chief. Cerilli doesn’t go easy on his characters—no one comes out of Lockjaw unscathed. The story demands they undergo not only deep personal reflection, but also actionable change. 

Which points to the message at the heart of the book: The burden of trauma, healing and forgiveness requires a great amount of personal responsibility and nuance. This is especially true in Bridlington, which has been built on decades of exclusion, its outcasts not only shunned, but also often forgotten. Cerilli navigates the balance between believing people can change and holding them accountable. Everyone must answer for their beliefs and their actions, and that makes for a very satisfying story that handles serious themes with care: For example, Cerilli refers to slurs only vaguely, such as, “thing that rhymes with—,” depicting harmful bigotry with honesty without making it painfully explicit for readers.

This candor, when coupled with the supernatural horror, makes the book thrilling from start to finish. Questions abound: What is the monster? Why won’t the adults acknowledge it? Why is Paz a town outcast? Lockjaw’s creative storytelling will keep you guessing, while its full-bodied characters will keep you reading. A horrifyingly honest tale with a hopeful ending, this engrossing novel is sure to get hearts racing and leave readers reflecting upon their own place in their communities.

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By Matteo L. Cerilli
ISBN 9781774882306

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