Review by Patrick R McDonough
From the disturbingly haunting cover to the formatting (buy the paperback, hint-hint), and the actual message throughout the story, Dries’ latest book, Dirty Heads, is everything he’s come to be known for: character-driven stories, a way to rip your heart out even when you know it’s coming, dread, and when it calls for it… the graphic juiciness some of you Horror fiends thirst for.
This isn’t your average coming-out-coming-of-age tale. I felt deep pain for Heath, and when we first met him, a homeless teen, what he’s been through to survive, there’s few things in this life worse than that. It’s absolutely heartbreaking.
When we rewind to and through his past, we (kind of) know what’s awaiting, we bear witness to what transpired, resulting in him living on the streets. The book starts at chapter 20 and ends at chapter 0. It’s a literal countdown to a chaotic finale. I thought that was ingenious. The track lines used as page breaks were equally clever.
This could be devoured in one sitting. I read at a turtle’s pace, but even I got through it in one day. There are a few reasons for that: it’s fast-paced, you want to know what happens next, the countdown–while increasing in both intensity and anxiety–and the fact that you want to see this poor kid find some hope to cling to at the very end. I wanted to tear him from the pages and hug him, until all the tears and fears were squeezed out of him, leaving him dried out like a new sponge ready to absorb some positive and loving emotions. I also wanted to tell Heath everything will be ok, but maybe, sometimes everything isn’t ok and it’ll only become exponentially worse when…
Read the book and see what happens to Heath. I found it as disturbing as enthralling. Another great book from Dries. Best part is he has a collection coming out next year. Shouldn’t be much longer to get that next fix, kids.
Review by Brennan LaFaro
Surprise! Happy Halloween and here comes a brand new novella from Aaron Dries. An unexpected release from the author of such gems as Where the Dead Go to Die (w/ Mark Allan Gunnells) and A Place for Sinners is a big enough treat in and of itself, but this one is truly special.
Harking back to the days of video store VHS, Dries leans into the concept. Interior art/formatting from Scott Cole provides us with some special surprises that will make the paperback of this one worth owning. Chapters run from twenty down to zero, providing the reader with a countdown, asking us to read with a touch of urgency. The prose, both frantic and tinged with heartbreaking beauty, only completes the picture.
At its heart, Dirty Heads is a monster novella, but Dries has wrung his essence onto every page, every paragraph to make this a crucial addition to coming-of-age literature. Heath Spooner will work his way into the reader’s heart quick as a whip, and though his specific troubles may not mirror the readers, Dries leans into the struggle with identity and becoming the person you’re meant to be despite, and sometimes because of, the obstacles surrounding you.
Terrifying, heartfelt, and at times deeply weird, Dirty Heads is more than just a Halloween treat. This is a novella you can, and likely will, read year-round.