Nora Walker is living alone in the family homestead that nestles close to the bottomless lake and the lush forests of Fir Haven, while her mother has taken off towards the west coast to make sales calls for the special honey she produces from her bees. Nora doesn’t mind her mother’s temporary abandonment and relishes her solitude and independence, except she really misses the companionship and presence of her recently deceased grandmother, who has taught her the history of the Walker women and introduced her to the carefully maintained “spellbook” that details the special “nightshade” talents of each of them.
Nora generally keeps to herself while at home, but a wild winter snowstorm has shut down the road out of her area and cut off utilities. She’s not too worried until she runs into a lost boy, Oliver, from the camp while exploring the woods and finds out that another boy is missing and presumed dead. She takes Oliver home with her for shelter and warmth until he can return to camp the next morning, but the perplexing circumstances surrounding his appearance in the woods lead her to investigate further. As she does, she becomes acquainted with other boys from Oliver’s cabin and the girlfriend of one of them who sneaked in to visit and got stranded by the storm. Nora’s atypical involvement with all these people her age stirs a restlessness in her, and she finds her peaceful, solitary life no longer as satisfying as in times past.
This well-written mystery delves into folklore, magic, first romance, finding one’s place in the universe, and recognizing the value of human connection and interaction. Its narrative, to me, was evocative of the early Twilight books, and I can imagine YA readers will easily go for this one. Offensive language is pervasive, primarily consisting of shit, f***, asshole and such. There are scenes of threat, bullying and violence. Teenage drinking is (surprise!) frequent, and the camp kids break into summer homes and trash them. These are things to consider. The language issue alone will dissuade some people from purchasing the book. Such is the curse of YA lit these days.
Categories: Bullying, Controversial YA Topics, Crime, Diversity, Fantasy, Mysteries, Navigating through High School, Offensive Language in YA Literature, Parent Conflict, Peer Relationships, Supernatural/Occult, Violence, Wizarding and Magic