review: Bait by J. Kent Messum


Thanks to the librarian-loving folks at Edelweiss and Penguin Group, I read a horrifying reality TV-like book on my way back from Las Vegas last month. That book is J Kent Meesum’s debut novel Bait, and this story of six heroin addicts stranded together on an island in the Florida Keys is enough to turn any addict straight, for fear of ending up in the hands of similarly sadistic vigilantes.

But, I am getting ahead of myself. Let me start from the beginning.

Six heroin addicts wake up on a deserted island. Say what? Yeah. Addict or not, that would shock a person. They don’t know each other, but they know each other because they know themselves as addicts; as individuals who made poor decisions that led them to wake up on that island. To be pawns in the game of sanctimonious men who consider their efforts to be true and good. To be shark bait.

The 6 addicts were not left on the island to die. No, they were left on the island to fight. To gain back the very thing they had each spend considerable amounts of time and money wasting. While traversing shark-infested waters and scavenger hunts, the backstories of the six are uncovered. Readers sympathize a little, despise a lot, and gasp often. This is no gentle tale of vigilantes turning addicts into proper people again. This is a fast-paced story of intense emotions and hair-raising action.

Recommended for:
I cannot wait to recommend this to older teen boys who will understand that the drug references and situations should be taken seriously, not as just a thing to get through to get to the shark fights. I’ll also recommend this to adults who need something new and fresh. This is unlike any adult novel I’ve read in a long time. Messum definitely did not follow a typical story formula.

I truthfully cannot think of anything. I’ll say Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell and The Contortionists Handbook by Craig Clevenger, if only because of the gritty realism.


I find it extremely fitting that this book debuts a mere week after the conclusion of the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week. I love the timing, and need to ask my bff and Shark Week aficionado Michelle if Penguin ran advertisements for this novel during any of the particularly gruesome Shark Week shows.

If you’re interested in interviews and such, follow him on his book blog tour this month and next.

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