The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
American Gods (and promptly read every other possible thing he has ever written or even associated himself with), so the minute this book was published, it promptly bumped every other book from my To-Be-Read queue and consumed my life for a day and a half.
True to Gaiman's style, it's part sci-fi supernatural thriller, part bone-chilling horror story, which makes it wholly awesome. The story begins in the present day where the nameless narrator is attending a family funeral and decides, during a break and totally impulsively, to visit his family's old (now demolished) home. He's reminded during his journey of a friend he had who lived down the lane, a girl a little older than him named Lettie Hempstock, and wondering what ever had become of her, he visits her family's farm. Stepping onto the Hempstock property, his memories of Lettie's pond—which she in her adorably provincial way referred to as her ocean—trickle into his consciousness until he's flooded with his memory of the suicide of a diamond miner, the catalyst for the narrator and Lettie becoming fast friends, as well as their encounter with a strange, paranormal creature that can't resist using its powers on Earth.
Though the narrator begins a skeptic, he quickly remembers walking hand-in-hand with Lettie through the Hempstock property into a parallel world where they confront a hideous beast who grotesquely bores her way into the narrator's body and is transported like a virus into his world. Soon the beast has infiltrated his family, causing unrest and seeking the whole time to do the narrator endless harm. The book quickly escalates, as the beast's destruction of everything good introduces a slew of even more harmful, ravenous "varmints," and does this all at a nightmare-inducing pace that makes it impossible to put the book down lest the young narrator and Lettie come to more danger because you're not reading them to safety.
It's a short read, well worth the time invested, and not without its moments of bittersweet realities. When you as a reader take a dip in the eponymous ocean at the end of the lane with Lettie and the narrator, you'll want to jump in just as much as I did to see how those improbable waters change you. Needless to say, this is one I will gladly re-read (I can go slower now that I know the ending is at least not UNhappy). The Ocean at the End of the Lane is available throughout the CAFÉ system in print and audiobook.
-Abby, Reference Librarian