What Bennett does so well in American Elsewhere is offer a nostalgic slice of small town America, as wholesome as apple pie on the surface, with something rotting and dangerous underneath. He manipulates placid descriptions of people and places, nudging small details out of place, all seemingly innocuous at first, but the sum of the whole experience is goosebumps creepy. The first half is a slow burn. But in the second half Bennett starts accelerating the pace, throwing us plot twists that come faster and faster (and at times become more and more implausible), until I was no longer scared at night but more amused—and exhausted. Bennett doesn't let you rest until a monster showdown at the end.
American Elsewhere, for its sheer imagination and as a mashup of horror and science fiction, is a pretty compelling read, a page turner. I'm giving it 4 stars for the first half of the book and its buildup of creepy Americana and arresting images and scenes; 3 stars for the second half, when the horror show turns sharply into a Lovecraft-ian imitation.