From the author of You Must Not Miss comes a haunting contemporary horror novel that explores themes of mental illness, rage, and grief, twisted with spine-chilling elements of Stephen King and Agatha Christie. Following her father's death, Jane North-Robinson and her mom move from sunny California to the dreary, dilapidated old house in Maine where her mother grew up. All they want is a fresh start, but behind North Manor's doors lurks a history that leaves them feeling more alone...and more tormented. As the cold New England autumn arrives, and Jane settles in to her new home, she finds solace in old books and memories of her dad. She steadily begins making new friends, but also faces bullying from the resident "bad seed," struggling to tamp down her own worst nature in response. Jane's mom also seems to be spiraling with the return of her childhood home, but she won't reveal why. Then Jane discovers that the "storage room" her mom has kept locked isn't for storage at all--it's a little girl's bedroom, left untouched for years and not quite as empty of inhabitants as it appears.... Is it grief? Mental illness? Or something more...horrid?
What worked: This is an intense, creepy paranormal. I love ghost tales and this one has so much going for it. Jane hates that she has to move to a small town in Maine. Ruth is secretive about her past, even when the town people all seem to know what happened one fateful day some twenty years ago. I really liked the suspense, mystery surrounding the old house. Jane is a complex heroine. She suffers from anger issues and she eats pages of a favorite book to calm down. The interactions she has in town and at the new high school are intense, including from mean-girl Melanie, who has her own secret.
The creepiness is shown throughout the book. It starts subtly with just creaks in the old house and a rose garden in the back that seems to defie odds. After Ruth cuts them down, they rapidly grow back. Only black.
Secrets are everywhere in this town. Jane's mother isn't totally honest on the real reason she fled her home. Their relationship is at times warm, but grows cold the longer they're both in the old home. If it was me, I would have sold that house ASAP!
Love the cover too. Sinister creepiness that totally reflects the premise of this amazing horror story. There are times Jane and the reader aren't sure if what's going on is real or just a dream. Nothing over the top, but more psychological horror with a shocking reveal at the end.
THE BAD SEED meets a ghostly mystery set in an old decrepit house with deadly secrets. Great Halloween horror story!
2. THE BAD SEED meets a ghostly mystery
As Jane begins to go around town, people remark about how much she looks like someone else- though her mother is quick to cut them off from saying more. Her mother is a terrible liar, so we know she is hiding something big from Jane, and it seems that everyone in the small town but her know. At the same time, the groans and such from the house are not just settling. Jane is hearing a person from the locked room that her mother claims is just storage and seeing shadows from it.
Jane never really knows if she is just imaging things or if the things she sees and hears are real. Not everyone is town is welcoming, and Jane is barely holding herself together between the grief over her father's sudden death and the cross-country move during her senior year of high school.
This book covers some heavy topics, and it's hard to say what all without giving things away, but pica is one that we learn about early on, as Jane eats books as a way to self-regulate. The ending really shocked me, and we never really find out what is real. The paranormal elements are really well woven such that even the reader is left guessing. This is definitely a super-creepy book that is perfect for Halloween reading.
HORRID is an intense and compelling YA horror novel that will leave readers reeling. Highly recommend for people looking for some creepy Halloween reads.