A few months back GNoH enjoyed Amy Lukavics YA debut “Daughters Unto Devils” a gripping and hypnotic horror thriller set in frontier America which threw into the mix everything from cabin fever, religious fundamentalism, madness and murder, not to mention a large dose of the supernatural. In light of a terrific debut I was very interested to see what Amy was going to come up with next, and that often ‘difficult’ second novel…..
The author doesn’t disappoint with another complex, character driven, and highly enjoyable supernatural tale which reveals its secrets gleefully slowly in an excellently paced novel which deserves to find a large with teenage and YA readers. Seventeen year old Lucy lives in a huge house in the countryside with her cousin Margaret, they rarely see anyone except for her distant and distracted father and Margaret’s mother, her aunt, who is more like a surrogate mother. Lucy’s natural mother died when she was three, and there are hints of foul play in the murky family history. Most of the time her father is persistently occupied planning fancy dinners and events for a club which only ever seems to meet in their house, and don’t appear to do very much else except sponge from her family. But there is obviously more going on, and part of the fun in this novel is the finding out.
Much of the early action focusses on the two teenagers, who are very close, and how they deal with the suicide of the family chef in the opening few pages. Although they are cousins, they are as close as sisters and are inseparable. I loved the vagueness of the setting, time period and location, and although the odd hint was thrown in here and there, it was hard to pin point which I liked. Considering they are two seventeen year old girls, there are no mobile phones, internet, boys, sex, very little mention of TV, school or other pop culture references. Neither do they go to school as we are told Margaret got into too much trouble. They seem to live in their bubble in this big empty house.
Lucy is very close to her aunt, in many ways closer than Margaret which leads to some friction, especially after Aunt Penelope disappears. No police come to look for the missing aunt, and both Lucy and Margaret become suspicious. As do we the readers. As the plot picks up the pace, Margaret becomes withdrawn and believes she hears the voice of her missing mother in the walls, particularly the attic. Lucy, of course, doesn’t believe her. As we enter the world of the supernatural to reveal any more in a review would spoil the plot. However, the novel does have some ingenious twists, a couple of which I didn’t see coming. You really can’t beat the cracker with the replacement cook! If you ever read it, you’ll know what I mean. I read a lot of YA and the biggest compliment I can give one of these reads is when I read it with the same intensity as an adult novel, which I did with this.
Lucy is also a self-harmer, although it’s not a major strand of the story it’s explored delicately via her loneliness, as when she attempts to go cold turkey she can hear her equipment whispering and calling to her. As an adult reader, there were a few things I was naturally suspicious of, the father’s club being the most obvious one. For a good, while it’s unclear, similar to the author’s previous novel, whether there is anything supernatural going on at all, and this is another strength as it builds suspense. But when the voices begin the creepiness level is ramped up. The setting itself was great, the discovery of the horrible old cemetery, and not to mention some of the gory scenes in the finale. The gross scene suggesting a character was swallowing teeth also ramped up the yuck factor. There was lots of good stuff in this book and any teenage horror fan looking for an intelligent read with a strong and capable female lead will get much out of it.
Amy Lukavics is of course an author to watch and I hope she will become better known on this side of the pond on the back of this book. I’ve mentioned previously on GNoH that I didn’t think that YA horror had developed at the same pace as a lot of other YA writing, this certainly isn’t the case with Lukavics. Both her novels, although they are most definitely supernatural horror, have real strengths in their engaging and believable teenage voices. An author to watch.