Following her father’s death, Jane North-Robinson and her mom move from sunny California to the dreary, dilapidated old house in Maine where her mother grew up. All they want is a fresh start, but behind North Manor’s doors lurks a history that leaves them feeling more alone…and more tormented.
As the cold New England autumn arrives, and Jane settles in to her new home, she finds solace in old books and memories of her dad. She steadily begins making new friends, but also faces bullying from the resident “bad seed,” struggling to tamp down her own worst nature in response. Jane’s mom also seems to be spiralling with the return of her childhood home, but she won’t reveal why. Then Jane discovers that the “storage room” her mom has kept locked isn’t for storage at all — it’s a little girl’s bedroom, left untouched for years and not quite as empty of inhabitants as it appears….
Is it grief? Mental illness? Or something more… horrid?
I’m not usually one for horror books, but this one caught my eye and I really wanted to give it a go. When Blue offered to sell me their Owlcrate edition, I decided to try it. I have to say, this one didn’t disappoint and I’m really glad I picked it up. I did want to save this for Halloween season, but I picked this out of my TBR jar and I thought, why not?
This book was utterly enthralling and I struggled to put it down. It is written in large (25-100ish pages each, averaging at about 50 at a guess) sections rather than chapters, which I was originally apprehensive about but it really worked. I flew through this because I just couldn’t stop reading and I really wanted to know what was going to happen.
Jane had recently lost her father, which meant a big move for her and her mother from California to small town Maine where her mother grew up in a spooky old manor house. I absolutely adored the atmosphere, it really encapsulated the feeling of this book. The whole town has a creepy, isolated feel but especially the manor. I was utterly gripped by this book, especially the spooky scenes. It terrified me, but I loved it, because it was so cleverly done.
I think the important thing to realize, to try and remember, is that grief doesn’t have a rule book.
Throughout the book, the mystery surrounding the house is slowly revealed to Jane, and she realises she does have reason to be scared of the big old house, which is shrouded in darkness. If this book was one thing, it was super dark. It demonstrates the darkest parts of the human mind, and felt so harrowing for it. I really enjoyed the way the mystery was revealed, although the ending did let me down slightly. I just expected it to be a little clearer, and I was left with a lot of questions. It was left very open, which lets the reader decide for themselves how the book really ends, but this just didn’t quite appeal to me personally and did make this not quite 5 stars.
Grief, mental illness and pica (a disorder when people eat things that have no nutritional value) are at the forefront of this book. I thought the depiction of grief was very well done, and I really sympathised with Jane. The quote I’ve included in this review really pinpoints the tone this book took with grief. Mental illness, especially anger issues, were prominent and I really appreciated the way Horrid talked about mental illness passing down between family members.
You’re allowed to feel every emotion under the sun. You’re even allowed to invent new ones. I think I’ve done that a few times
Overall, this was definitely a bit of a pleasant surprise considering I don’t usually drift towards horror. The writing really stood out, and was beautiful yet jarring. I also loved that Jane worked at a bookshop and was a reader herself. I actually really sympathised with her which shows how clever the writing was. The plot was enthralling and thrilling, with some absolutely spine chilling scenes. If you do enjoy a good scare, that has some poignant writing about family, mental illness and grief, I couldn’t recommend this enough.
4 out of 5 stars
May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽