Jesse and Scarlett have been through a lot. Jesse’s warm, loving gran, who raised him after his flighty mother was murdered, lost her fight with cancer and is now residing inside an urn that lives atop the heater in his dilapidated trailer. In the huge mansion across the way from Jesse’s farmland, Scarlett’s forbidding dad is controlling and physically abusive, but her timid mum is insistent that this is all perfectly normal. Once, Jesse and Scarlet were the best of friends. Of course, they haven’t spoken in 3 years… Not since Jesse froze her out at the start of high school and began spreading rumours about her.
Don’t worry about not liking or relating to these characters, you’ll like them just fine; I’m so glad this was written with a dual POV. You’d think Jesse would be at least a little unlikable, considering he did ignore Scarlett for 3 years, but he’s actually swoon worthy… You might also think you’d get frustrated that Scarlett doesn’t speaking out immediately about her abusive dad, especially with a vulnerable younger sister to consider, but that wasn’t my reaction at all. All I felt was empathy. The fact is, Katie McGarry might write baggage like nobody’s business, but her characters are so well drawn that you can’t help loving them despite their weaknesses – they might make silly choices, but you always end up thinking, “I probably would have done that too…”
Finally, I loved the southern-gothic vibes of this story – from the magical realism in the cursed land, to the quiet horrors of abusive families, and the psychic, distantly-related cousin who lives amid endless woods and predicts fates. This setting, combined with a wickedly twisty plot and slow burn romance, make this a great YA contemporary that has a heavy dose of suspense. I found this a difficult read to put down and spent my entire Saturday reading it… I’m sort of hoping that Leo and Veronica get their own spin off story. (Hint, hint! Miss McGarry…)
Edition read: Hardback (January 2019)
Age recommendation: 14+
Triggers: physical and emotional abuse
Rating: 5 yummy cupcakes!!!!!