- Author: Katrina Leno
- Genre: YA Horror
- Publication Date: September 15, 2020
- Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
TRIGGER WARNING: pica, underage drinking, off-page parental death, death of a sibling, death of a child, mention of past animal abuse, mention of past child abuse
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?
Ok, so anyone who knows anything about me knows that I do NOT read horror. At all. But I happened to get such a beautiful copy of this book in my September OwlCrate box, and it seemed more creepy than scary, so I decided to give it a try. It was absolutely more creepy than scary, which made it the perfect book to read in October.
It is a story of a family in turmoil, after the death of Jane’s father. Jane and her mother suddenly move clear across the country, to her mother’s childhood home. But it isn’t exactly a fresh start. There’s so much anger, sadness, and grief coursing through this story that it creates plenty of tension. There’s also a running theme of mental illness that was intriguing.
Jane has a range of unhealthy coping skills to manage her emotions. She lashes out at people around her, and she displays symptoms of pica — she eats pages out of her books:
“She let the paper sit on her tongue for a minute, turning pulpy and clumpy as her saliva coated it. And then she swallowed. Again and again until the entire page was gone. Again and again until her anger — the dull throb that never seemed to completely leave her — receded a little.”
And the longer Jane stays in North Manor and starts seeing things that just don’t seem to make sense, she begins to question her sanity. She wonders if others question her sanity as well:
“‘I think you’ve had a tremendous loss. And grief manifests itself in unpredictable ways.’”
Jane sees similarities to her favorite Agatha Christie novel, and starts to uncover her own family history along with dark secrets in the small town she’s now calling home. And this helps her understand more about herself.
It’s such an atmospheric novel that I couldn’t put it down. I just had to find out what happened next. While I’ll never become a fan of horror, this was the perfect mix of spooky and creepy. I figured out one of the plot twists, but the rest blindsided me, and I really enjoyed the story. It’s perfect for spooky season, just waiting to be read with a steaming mug of tea under a warm blanket.
People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.
Gasp Factor: 9
Categories: Book Review