In 1998, a sixteen-year-old girl is found dead on school property, dressed in white and posed on a swing, with no known cause of death. The novel opens with this image, as related to us by the narrator, Violet, looking back on the night it happened from the present day, before returning to relate the series of events leading up to the girl’s murder.
After an accident involving her Dad and sister, Violet joins Elm Hollow Academy, a private girls school in a quiet coastal town, which has an unpleasant history as the site of famous 17th century witch trials. Violet quickly finds herself invited to become the fourth member of an advanced study group, alongside Robin, Grace, and Alex – led by their charismatic art teacher, Annabel.
While Annabel claims her classes aren’t related to ancient rites and rituals – warning the girls off the topic, describing it as little more than mythology – the girls start to believe that magic is real, and that they can harness it. But when the body of a former member of the society – Robin’s best friend, with whom Violet shares an uncanny resemblance – is found dead on campus nine months after she disappeared, Violet begins to wonder whether she can trust her friends, teachers, or even herself.
PUBLICATION DATE: 2nd May 2019
This is an intense novel, is follows a troubled teenage girl through the darkest time of her life and plays on all the turbulent emotions we feel during that time in all of our lives.
I love books about angry women, angry YOUNG women are even more brutal and this book thoroughly explored that. It covers the intensity of best-friendships between teen girls, rivalries, schooling and relationships in general.
Violet finally makes some friends in school, and the girls are all troubled in their own ways and not entirely welcoming though they do form a social clique and become dependent on each other in one way or another.
This book reminded me very much of the 90s classic film ‘The Craft’, in terms of both storyline and characterisation, but with less of the campiness. The lines between their own mundane (but significant) issues and potential magic are blurred, you have to decide for yourself if the magic is real, or the intensity of the girls’ imaginations and deceptions/ good old coincidences are responsible for some of the events that occur. It could just as easily be a blend of all three, but that’s the joy of this book.
I was sucked in by the pure angsty goodness and tempered rage in this book, the writing style is mysterious and completely compelling. I can’t recommend it highly enough for anyone who wants to relive/get insight into the weird vibrancy of being a teenage girl and believing that anything is possible.