Author: Katrina Leno
Genre: Young Adult, Horror, Thriller, Fiction
Disclaimer - This book was read in the ARC* form. There may be some differences in this version than from what appears in other copies of this book.
Publication: September 2020
A good introduction into horror for the young adult genre. It is not a terrifying or disgusting story but instead has a mildly creepy element. The writing itself was pleasant. Like most thriller books there is a big secret that is eventually revealed. I was able to figure out the secret far before the reveal, but the writing was elegant enough that when it finally was revealed I still experienced the shock of it. Sometimes the teenage main character comes across as too responsible and her mother not responsible enough, but those characteristics play a part that assists the overall horror elements of the story. And there are a few other themes that are strongly carried throughout the book that help to fuel the plot and that big reveal.
In-Depth Review (contains spoilers)
The beginning was strong with many jokes and entertaining introductions to the characters. And the middle carried on enough that I was invested. But the ending fell flat for me. It was a predictable ending that brought about the end of a very bland character for me. I didn’t love Melanie nor hated her so her demise didn’t cause any reaction from me. And no reaction is bad within the contents of a book.
There were several missed foreshadowing opportunities that I was upset about. Different themes could have been brought up earlier and carried throughout the book but instead were only described towards the end. For example, Jane could have had flashbacks to her growing up and wishing that she had a sister. That would create an interestingly weird connection, almost like young Jane knew that something was wrong, and she wasn’t supposed to be an only child. The secret de Polichinelle could have been greatly foreshadowed. With Will reading the Agatha Christie book they could have had several discussions that lead up to him realizing that she did not actually know about Jemima. Similar to the events that actually took place but more prolonged through the story. Another thing that would’ve greatly developed the characters and story is if Jane had actually met Annie. It was frustrating that we had to learn of Annie just through Melanie and others. Jane could have, for some reason, visited the hospital. While there she could’ve run into Annie, who, upon seeing her and her similar appearance to Jemima, would have freaked out. I believe that would have been a more solid reason to push Annie to suicide rather than just hearing about Jemima’s much younger sister, who no one knew existed, moved to town. It would also give Jane a more solid reason to push the truth from her mother.
A couple of questions I have about the smaller details are why Jane’s narration refers to her mother and father as Ruth and Greer. Addressing Emilia by her name creates a separation that is well deserved. But doing that carries through to making a separation between Jane and her parents as well. It makes Ruth not actually seem like her mother and more like a roommate. And who is Jemima’s father. I understand that Emilia pretty much got rid of him earlier on but wouldn’t Jane question who from her mother’s past was the father of her sister. Or did Ruth ever wonder if he stayed in town or moved on from the tragedy if it bothered him at all.
Now one little thing about when she was at lunch on her first day of school. When Susie says how Alana claims she saw a moose once. Being a native of Pennsylvania and frequently traveling throughout New England, it is odder that someone just claims to have seen a moose rather than seeing one. Deer, elk, moose. I have seen them all multiple times. Also referring to her fist day, no teachers or secretaries would have students call them by their first names. At least not where I’m from. It’s more a sign of respect if anything. So, Rosemary was not a convincing character for me.
I loved the theme of pica (disorder that causes the eating of substances with no nutritional value) and how it kept showing up in different characters. It was so nerve wracking how worried Ruth appeared when she caught Jane eating her books. And then when it was revealed that not only Jemima but Ruth herself also ate things that weren’t food was such a haunting feeling. And it showed Jemima’s connection with Jane and how she was able to almost control her.
Unfortunately, the big reveal did get muddled. Towards the end there were so many explanations and re-explanations that just kept repeating themselves. It got so repetitive and confusing that I’m actually still fairly lost as to what is the actual truth. Supposedly Jemima was a little jerk to Annie or Annie began teasing her first and then some thought Jemima fell into the hole or Annie may have pushed her or just took too long to get help. I’m not sure if there was supposed to be just one truth or if there was truth in a bit of all of it. But the emotions that I felt upon the reveal quickly faded as I had to listen to the re-telling of it multiple times from multiple different views.
I would recommend this book as a starter to horror. It is creepy enough to be unsettling without being scary. There are some issues with the regular story itself but as a light horror, it is successful. If you go into this book new to the genre, don’t expect to have a completely peaceful sleep right after.
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*ARC, or Advanced Reading Copy, is a pre-published, nearly complete version of a new book that is given out before the official release date. The aim is to gain reviews that can coincide with the launching and to get booksellers interested in selling the book. It is normal for there to be changes from the ARC to the actual published copy since this form is an uncorrected proof.