Author: Katrina Leo
Publication Date: 15 September 2020
Genre: YA – Horror
Publisher: The NOVL (Little Brown for Young Readers)
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?
I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the main reason that I was drawn to this book was because of the cover. It’s just so deliciously creepy. When I read the blurb and saw that this was a New England horror story, I was sold.
Jane is trying to cope with her grief after the unexpected death of her father. To make matters worse, her father lost all of their money, so Jane and her mother Ruth pack up their things and leave sunny California to live in a dilapidated mansion (North Manor) in Maine where Ruth was raised.
Omce Jane and Ruth get settled in, it is clear that Ruth is hiding secrets from her past. Jane quickly makes friends at school and even gets a part time job in a bookstore, but none of those things distract her from the strange things that start happening at North Manor. Jane isn’t sure if it’s grief, mental illness, or a poltergeist, but she’s determined to uncover the secrets that North Manor is harboring.
This is my first book by Katrina Leno, and I definitely fell in love with her lush and atmospheric writing . The amount of details that went into describing the decrepit state of North Manor made me feel like I truly stepped into a house of horrors alongside Jane and Ruth. Everything about North Manor made my skin crawl.
While I was reading this one, I definitely struggled with wanting a concrete answer as to whether the strange events taking place in North Manor were real versus a manifestation of Jane’s mental state. In addition to Jane’s grief, she also struggles with intense anxiety and anger. In order to calm herself down, she eats a page from a book. Literally. The way her pica is addressed and handled is really fascinating, and something that I have never seen in YA.
Overall, if you love stories that make you look over your shoulder while reading as well as second guess everything then definitely pick this one up!
Thank you to The NOVL for providing a review copy. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.