Hocus Pocus meets Practical Magic.
THIS COVERS LOOKS SUPER SHINY AND PRETTY but I didn’t even know because I borrowed an ebook from my library!
So this is kind of a novel about consent without it ever really being addressed.
There are so many consent issues to think about: consent about whether the sisters really did ‘bewitch’ men against their will, on the consent of boys lured to their deaths, on the consent of the sisters inhabiting innocent teen girls to wreak their revenge and whether the sisters have been invited by sheer teenage stupidity or bravado or peer pressure (and even if they have, they can’t consent to individual acts the sisters choose to commit), and how the sisters use the innocent girls’ bodies while they’re possessing them. But this is all kind of glossed over because it’s revenge.
I feel like this novel didn’t really have to be a Young Adult novel. It could have been an adult one, and may even make more sense as an adult novel.
Maybe it was an attempt to make this book seem more timeless, like it was set in the 80s or 90s when technology wasn’t so deeply engrained in everyday life, something that The Scorpio Races, a strikingly similar book, pulled off with its earlier time setting. But the result made Penny seem like she was a middle-aged adult in a young person’s body, much the same way Bella Swan seemed strikingly middle-aged for a teenager. Maybe it’s a Pacific North West thing, I don’t know. But this book could have been rewritten as a book for adults with very little effort, or maybe it originally was and was easily switched to YA to find a more lucrative market.
I didn’t find this particularly atmospheric or spooky, maybe because I think it pales in comparison to both Hocus Pocus and Practical Magic, which is has been compared to. I also think it pales in comparison to The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater which, like I mentioned earlier, it bears striking similarities to: a small town set in a stormy place has a supernatural ‘season’ that involves the ocean and locals doing daring things that might get them killed, and which attracts tourists to the town. Like Puck, Penny is also a local who is an outsider. I also didn’t think it was particularly romantic, mostly because I really have no idea what either person in this supposed romance felt. It was really lukewarm and uninspiring. It also didn’t make any sense that at the end of the novel, Penny and her love interest continued their relationship as if nothing had happened.
Penny is not the one falling in love/being fallen in love with, and that’s why it’s icky consent and no feels romance and generally kind of a plot hole.
What I thought was really great was the use of first and third person point of view, and past and present tense. There was no hard and fast rule: it wasn’t that everything set 200 years ago was in third person and everything set in the modern world was first person. There was a fluidity there that I think could have been a risk in lesser hands, but Ernshaw had good instincts and it all flowed really well.
It was fun and easy to read and guess the twists before they happened. The narrative was woven together very nicely, utilising a variety of points of view and tenses, and using Chekov’s Gun surprisingly well. One thing that kept me going was that I couldn’t see how this could possibly be resolved.
While I wasn’t an enamoured of this book as I wanted to be, I think it was a better debut than most contemporary YA paranormal writers. If Ernshaw’s writing improves with time and experience I expect her next novel to be even better, and I look forward to reading it. I also think this would make a really good TV miniseries and I hope it’s fully developed.
Disclaimer: reviewing unedited digital proof via NetGalley.
Sometime in the 1800s or so in Sparrow, OR, three sisters were drowned for being witches (& seducing all the guys). Two centuries later, they still return every summer to possess three girls in town and drown boys in revenge.
The lighthouse keeper's daughter is still reeling after the disappearance (and presumed death) of her father. When a strange boy comes to town the day before the drowning season, she offers him a place to stay. That night, she dreams of the sea.
This is kind of a hard one to review without spoilers. It does some fascinating things with identity and perspective, and the twists are the kind you anticipate and dread as they creep up on you with slow inevitability. Rich worldbuilding conveys a sense of a smalltown/vacation town on the coast, the uneasy sea, and the tension of belonging and acceptance that becomes especially critical in such a close-knit community. Interesting things happening with sexuality/identity, though this comfortably enjoyable read tends to avoid looking at the ick factor of girls being possessed by the dead and sleeping with the boys in town while under the spell too closely. The story feels fresh, and the style or voice is immediate and engaging. Around midway through, it seemed like it was shaping up to be a romance. Keep in mind that tragedy, horror, and suspense are core to the story and settle in for the ride. As a whole, it feels like a quiet read with strong interiority, rather than a pacy thriller - but on the other hand, I inhaled it in like a day, so it definitely doesn't drag.
Spectacularly atmospheric and creeptastic new read that walks the line between dark fantasy and paranormal. It's a really great tone, more quiet and pensive, with a good helping of horror and historic fic snuck in there. You may or may not see the twists coming, but they carry weight regardless. Feels fresh and familiar at the same time. Definitely an author to watch.