“The backseat of the car is my kingdom. Travel duvet, phone, headphones, snacks, easy-to-access makeup bag to make myself look presentable 10 minutes before arrival”
Every winter, three families gather in an old house to celebrate the New Year. This year, 15-year-old Leah and the other kids discover that the house has a dark past. As they dig into the history, terrible things start happening, and if Leah isn’t careful, this New Year might be her last.
What I thought
The first thing to say about this book is it’s a really good YA thriller. Once things really start going it doesn’t stop and the tension just continues. Wallman’s really good at gently turning the screws and gently amping the mood until you need a knife to cut the tension. There are some books that are definitions of an ‘un-put-downable’ book this is one of them.
The world building was really well done. From the beginning you get a strong idea of all of our characters, how they are related, and what they feel about the house that they spend their holidays in. And on that note, trying to explain family holidays to people can be really difficult. As a child we used to always go to mountains and would spend at least half of them hiking and stopping every 20-30minutes to read a book. And I loved it, I haven’t seen mountains for a couple of years and really miss them. But as a kid/teenager trying to explain how nice it wasn’t easy; trying to explain that I loved the fact that the weather was so interchangeable and that we would do our ‘family Olympics’. To other people they sound a bit dull or weird, and I normally like the sound of them because of the passion and love that other people have when they talk about it. Hearing people talk about a subject they love is always great even if the subject matter isn’t anything that you’re interested in.
And as a teenager, having to explain to a friend that making up predictions and making up your own games is all you’ve got planned for a holiday. Or that you don’t use any electronics/get any reception at this place, it’s going to be a hard sell. Especially to someone that isn’t a close friend. So when this person is invading your pace and scorning your traditions as much as you can intellectually understand why they might not sound interesting it doesn’t change the fact that it will immediately get your hackles up. It’s understandable why Leah doesn’t like Tatum, and when Tatum starts pushing them to investigate the discovery of a body buried in the garden and takes over the holiday, I felt myself getting angry with her too. She is the visitor here. It would be like me being a visitor in an acquaintance’s house and then ordering them about and telling them what we were going to do that day.
The way all the teenagers still refer to their parents as “the adults” rang true to me, no matter how old you are it’s still difficult to club yourself with the generation above you. I am technically an adult/grown up; I’m a Brownie Leader and am allowed to take them away overnight, my job has certain responsibilities, I’ve got friends who are teachers, friends getting married, and yet I don’t feel like I’m an adult or should actually have all this responsibility. If I’m around older adults, especially at brownies were a lot of them were my leaders, I still defer to them and am having to teach myself to stand my ground a bit more. What I’m saying while I ramble is that it makes sense that even though this group of teenagers feel grown up and like they shouldn’t have to tell their parents where they are all the time, there is still a natural separation from ‘us’ and ‘the grown ups’.
Clearly as this is a thriller I’m trying to do by best to not spoil anything as I don’t want to give you any preconceptions as to the ‘who-dunnit’ and what’s going on. But what I will say that even though I thought I had a handle on what was going on, there were plenty of twists and turns that made me want to stop and re-centre everything. And yet I didn’t want to actually stop because it was too tense, “oh my god” very quickly became “tell me more”.
I didn’t see the end coming and I don’t think that was just because I was blind. Although maybe it was because I read this in one sitting, I’d like to say that if I’d had to put the book down I would have been thinking it over and might have had more of an idea.
Why I read it
I’m a fan of Sue Wallman’s other books and was flicking around the internet. I was excited to find that she had a new book coming out and pre-ordered it that day. J
It came out on the same day as Leah on the Off Beat and IWBFT so I did an ‘ineny-meany-miney-mo’ to pick what order I read them in.
The tension and the mood was really well done. The fast pace of a YA novel really leans itself well to a thriller. This was a great read and I’m really glad I noticed that it was coming out. I also loved how the original mystery about what happened to the girl who died, morphs into something more.
Would I recommend – I already have done.
Popsugar: About mental health, published in 2018.
Read Harder: One sitting
As always I’d love to know what you think of my review, if you’ve read the book, or if you want to read the book.
After a month at my new job things seem to be going well there and I’m currently a week ahead with pre-written reviews. Keeping with a 3 update a week schedule (Tue, Thurs, Sat) the book I finished today is due to do up on the 7th August.
Hope everyone is doing well and enjoy the hot weather we’ve currently got in the UK. Make the most out of it and read outside, just remember to put on some sun-cream!
P.S My next review is for ‘Ship It’ by Britta Lindon