Great atmosphere

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alysa_h Avatar


A dark and atmospheric YA, this book starts and finishes strong but the long middle drags it down.

Grey spent her childhood in the teeny tiny bayou town of La Cachette, Louisiana, one of several children all born within a few months of each other, surrounded by psychics of various (though never dubious) talents. She now lives in the Midwest during the school year and only returns to the island in the summer. This is her first summer back since the mysterious disappearance -- and probable death -- of her charismatic best friend, Elora, whose absence is felt so strongly that it's like a character in itself, everything and everyone swirling around it.

As with many YA books, there is next to no adult presence. Elora's supposedly strong relationship with her psychic grandmother is mostly told-not-shown, and the other teens' parents are largely absent, trotted out a little bit at certain moments of narrative convenience. Grey and the others are left to loll about the island, moping and drinking and exhibiting wildly varying degrees of character development. This is a place so small that everybody knows everybody else's business, and yet they're all so good at ignoring things that it starts to seem plausible that there could be a stranger literally living undiscovered among them. This is a book where the setting is ostensibly the star of the show, but I'd argue that it's the atmosphere, the idea of the setting rather than the details of the setting, that come through. I felt that close swampy atmosphere so strongly that I am willing to handwave so much else.

The middle of the book dragged considerably, mired in Grey's grief (which seems almost like that for a lost lover, though it's never made explicit) and her confused desires for two different boys. The way the side characters popped in and out was also frustrating to me. But just as I'd really begun to think this book would drag itself all the way towards a silly ending, the resolution stepped up its game. No spoilers here -- I'll just say that I found the conclusion quite satisfying, in a New Southern American Gothic kind of way.

** I received a Review Copy of this book via NetGalley **