If you are looking for atmosphere, this book has it. It is as creepy as the cover promises. The problem is that there is little else that will appeal to most readers of YA. Someone did this book a real disservice by forcing it into a YA mold when it would have been a fairly spectacular upper elementary read. I wanted to like it, but in the end, I just had to give it a two star rating.
In early-nineteenth century Scotland, sixteen-year-old Josie, an orphan, is sent to live with an aunt and uncle on the rocky, stormy northwest coast. Everything and everyone in her new surroundings, including her relatives, is sinister, threatening, and mysterious. She’s told that Eli, the young man she’s attracted to, is forbidden to her, but not why. Spirited, curious, and determined, Josie sets out to learn the village’s secrets and discovers evil, fueled by heartless greed, as well as a ghostly presence eager for revenge. An author’s note gives the historical inspiration for this story.
I tried to give this book the benefit of the doubt, but the truth is that the characters are lacking in complexity, and the romance is ridiculously rushed. It will leave most YA readers dissatisfied. If someone had just knocked the protagonist’s age down a few more years and considered friendship tinged with a first flush of a crush instead of a manic romance, this would have been a perfect follow up for young fans of books like Wait Till Helen Comes. It radiates a sinister atmosphere that has readers guessing that somehow, someway, young Josie’s soul is going to be in peril. I honestly had a whole host of horrible ideas in my head, and I wasn’t terribly disappointed with the more realistic path the book chose. Of course, I guessed the answer long before Josie did, and most readers will as well, but I think it would have played well to a younger crowd who hadn’t seen these kinds of twists before. I don’t think they would have been as bothered by the stilted feel of the formal language, either. I think this book is going to be most appealing to young middle school readers. It is a fast read, and while certain elements bothered me, I thought it was compelling enough. Language and situations are appropriate for all ages, but this is definitely one that younger readers will appreciate more.
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.