Riverhead. Aug. 2020. 224p. Tr $26. ISBN 9780593188958.
Gr 9 Up–Shirley Jackson meets E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars in this literary gothic novel. Teenage sisters July and September, less than ten months apart in age, were named for their birth months. Older sister September has always been in charge, with July dutifully taking a supporting role. Following a mysterious and sinister event, the girls move with their depressed single mother (she is Indian; their father is Danish) to a creepy old family home on the shore. The events that led to this move are initially obscured from readers, with the author’s breadcrumb trail of clues providing much of the book’s suspense. Much like the sisters in Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle and the heroine of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, July slowly comes undone through the weight of repressed memories, family secrets, and an extremely creepy house. Johnson brings a contemporary literary style to these classic tropes, meshing a 21st-century situation with elements of timeless gothic spookiness. The book’s big twist may be expected to fans of thrillers and gothic literature, but still resonates. The slow pace and at times fractured narrative style may be challenging for younger teen readers, but those with a knowledge of gothic literary tropes will find much to savor in this book.
VERDICT A thought-provoking, atmospheric exploration of sibling rivalry, grief, and the multifaceted inner lives of teen girls.

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