Lis London is starting a new life. Leaving behind a school where she’s been bullied and unhappy, she’s moving from Wales to Yorkshire to live with her sister. She’s bought all new clothes, her sisters home is beautiful, and she soon finds herself taken under the wing of the most popular girl at school, Laura.
It seems like the perfect start, but things aren’t always what they seem. Lis soon sees that Laura is an even bigger bully than the ones at her last school. And she’s also having awful nightmares that might be tied to the dark history of witchcraft at Hollow Pike. Are the awful stories about the town true? And can she survive Laura’s hatefulness and find a place she belongs?
I picked this up at a book signing, and really warmed to Juno Dawson. She’s funny, warm and vibrant, and I bought two of her books. This book, with it’s themes of bullying and finding where you belong, has some good things to say about finding who you are. It showed a nice understanding of the way high school politics and friendships work, and also handled gay characters in a very natural way, not making a big deal out of the relationship but not glossing over or ignoring it either.
Some young adult fiction works for adult or teen readers, but I felt that this book is aimed at it’s target audience squarely. There are moments in this book that felt overly dramatic to me, like a soap opera, and some dialogue felt kind of cheesey. It certainly didn’t spoil the book, but I felt like these elements would not be felt by a younger reader. I have to admit that I did find it a trifle slow, too, in places. (And a few moments seemed lifted from 90’s movie The Craft)
I did really like the background themes of witches and dark woods, crows and strange dreams. There are some truly delightful dark moments in this book and some nice twists and turns that get you to them. The book is a bit of a mystery thriller, with magic realism elements, and I really liked the way that was handled. I love that young adult books are so different and a lot darker and more adult than what was available when I was a teen, and this is a great example of that.
Read It If: a dark, mysterious tale, this one is perhaps best enjoyed by it’s teen target audience, but handles themes of bullying, friendship and LGBT nicely.