Chalk by Paul Cornell is one of those books that causes a struggle within the reader as to if the entertainment value overcomes the brutal and horrific events that are depicted in the story. Chalk is a story of extreme bullying, where the main character is physically altered by the bullies with a knife. The rest of the story becomes a revenge story that is very reminiscent of Carrie by Stephen King but only with a young male in Britain. I want to mention that this takes place in the countryside of Britain during the 1980s because it is a very British story that uses a lot of British slang and terminology. I was definitely out of my depth at times during this story with the language used. I don’t feel that this took away from the story but needs to get used to.
Paul Cornell writes a very brutal and honest story that connects with the reader because it is something so personal happening to the character. I know there are many readers that have been bullied as a child find reading about bullying to be cathartic, like myself, while others really hate reading these type of stories. The revenge aspect has a mystical entity that looks like the main character, Drew Waggoner, and as the story progresses, and Drew gets his revenge, which is actual murder(a definite possible trigger for some people), we find that the entity might have his own desires in mind.
This story is very 80s. Cornell is pulling a lot from his own childhood and pop music is actually a big part of the story. There is a young girl that believes that the pop music is giving her messages and telling her the future. At times I found this aspect of the story to be charming while other times I thought it was focused on too much. Drew is a writer in this story and we get many examples of him using his writing to make sense of his own world. At times, because Drew is a writer, he is definitely an unreliable narrator.
This story was definitely unforgettable. If you like horror and are alright with this murderous revenge type of story, it is for you. If you have strong political views on school shootings and things like that where bullying might have been the cause, this can be disturbing. I was at times very disturbed while other times extremely engrossed in the story. I think that as a horror story, it succeeded in making me uncomfortable. I am still not sold on Paul Cornell’s writing style. Cornell writes very sparse sentences that just sometimes don’t work for me. Chalk gets a little too busy and muddy towards the end of the story. We don’t get a whole lot of explanations about what is going on and the reader must infer a lot. Regardless, this was a decent horror story about bullying that created a response from me.