All the Dead Lie Down

HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen. May 2023. 368p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780063242982.
Gr 9 Up–Two grieving girls, one full of secrets and a strange power, learn to appreciate both life and death in this sapphic gothic romance. Still reeling from the death of her mother, Marin Blythe accepts an invitation from her mother’s estranged childhood friend, famed horror writer Alice Lovelace, to care for her young daughters. Marin arrives to learn the author’s remote Maine mansion, believed to be cursed, is crumbling into the sea; the girls, Thea and Wren, are macabre and prone to terrifying pranks; and Alice, her favorite author, is largely absent and alarmingly odd (to put it mildly). When the girls’ older sister Evie arrives home, Marin worries she will no longer be necessary at Lovelace House, when in reality she becomes more needed than ever. Evie’s terrifying “gift” turns the Lovelace estate from simply creepy to a true nightmare, and every secret places Marin in more and more peril. Together, the girls must work to set things right, before Alice can use her children to achieve her greatest wish. The atmospheric setting and lush descriptions of landscapes create a rich world, which helps offset the rough pacing. While Evie is a compelling, fully realized character, other characters, including, unfortunately, Marin, come off as underdeveloped and inconsistent. Readers sensitive to animal cruelty should be warned of frequent gory descriptions of dead and rotting creatures.
VERDICT Satisfyingly dark vibes and a desire to see how it all plays out will propel readers through an uneven story that struggles to live up to its premise.

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