This harrowing debut is the story of a girl trying to fit in, whose obsessive new friends and desperation to belong leads her to places she’d never imagined…dark, dangerous, and possibly even violent.
In 1998, a sixteen-year-old girl is found dead on her boarding school’s property, dressed in white and posed on a swing, with no known cause of death. What happened to her? And what do her friends know? To find out, it is necessary to go back to the beginning.
The school is Elm Hollow Academy, an all-girl’s boarding school located in a sleepy coastal town, with a long-buried grim history of 17th century witch trials. A new student, Violet, joins the school, and soon finds herself invited to become the fourth member of an advanced study group, led by the alluring and mysterious art teacher Annabel.
Annabel does her best to convince the girls that her classes aren’t related to ancient rites and rituals, and that they are just mythology. But the more she tries to warn the girls off the topic, the more the girls start to believe that magic is real and that they have the power to harness it.
Violet quickly finds herself wrapped up in this addictive new world. But when she comes to learn about the disappearance of a former member of the society, one with whom Violet shares an uncanny resemblance, she begins to wonder who she can trust, all the while becoming more deeply entangled in her newfound friendships.
Was it suicide, or a foul play more sinister? How far will these young girls go to protect one another…or to destroy one another? (taken from Amazon)
Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book, in exchange for my honest opinion. This will be available to purchase on October 8th.
**Be aware: there is a theme that could be very upsetting. I have mentioned it below in the vaguest way I could, but please read at your own discretion.**
Dark and unsettling, this was a hard book for me to read. In fact, I almost gave up on it. Sexual assault was a driving force in this book , and that’s something I try to avoid reading at all costs. I only finished because I felt that I owed it to the author to provide feedback for their pre-release. Now that I’ve written that, let me rush to add that I am going to do my absolute best to separate my distaste for parts of the book, and focus on it as a whole.
This book felt to me like it was going for a Virgin Suicides-meets- The Craft vibe. Violet wants desperately to find a group of friends, a fact that is noticed- and exploited by Robin- a girl who is on a headlong rush into disaster. This book explores the depths some people can fall to when love, lust, revenge, hurt, and loss collide.
Although there’s nothing incredibly new about the plotline, the story itself is well-written and hard to escape, if that makes sense. Part of what makes this book so disquieting is that there is no good guy to cheer for, and no redemption for any of the characters at all. Don’t go into this expecting a quick, fun mystery with a hook.
Aside from the unexpected and unwelcome impetus, my big complaint would be the ending. Throughout the book the author did a very good job of drawing things to a breaking point, then pushing them a little further. However, the ending felt rushed and didn’t fit in with the rest of the book at all.
This book was disturbing and thought-provoking: if that was the author’s intention, she succeed magnificently. However, if I had known before starting this book that there would be a theme of assault, I would not have read it. So…I guess the verdict is: this book is one to read if you like things on the harsher side. For me- I wish I’d skipped it.