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This gripping ghost story slash tale of murder and revenge was nominated for an Edgar in the Young Adult category, and it’s not hard to see why.
The story is told in several parts—first by Amber, who is imprisoned in a north woods juvenile detention facility for killing her stepfather. In fact, most of the female inmates with Amber are locked up for violent crimes of some nature, and Amber’s voice shares their incarcerated experience.
Then we learn about Violet, a cold and emotionless teenager on the cusp of attending Julliard in the wake of her best friend’s trial for murder. Her star rose on the ballet stage only once her best friend Orianna—the superior dancer in every way—went down for the crime. But readers are never sure whether Orianna is guilty or not, and we don’t learn what happened that fateful night until the very end.
Finally, we see Orianna’s arrival at the juvenile prison, and her rooming with Amber in their cell. Orianna’s kindness shines through and the other girls quickly decide that she might be the only innocent among them. Readers learn fairly early in the story that the 42 girls imprisoned in the isolated facility meet an untimely end by poison—setting the stage for the ghost story that brings everyone’s narrative threads to a satisfying and intensely creepy end.
Amber’s voice often speaks in a collective sense, even if her character isn’t necessarily present, lending the feeling of shared experience—a miserable, fraught experience, shared by all the young female inmates of the juvenile facility. Violet’s storyline brings to life the intensity of young female friendships and the cost of ambition. Suma writes two wildly disparate worlds and they inevitably and surreally crash together. It took several chapters, but once I was hooked, I was unable to quit reading until I knew everything—about the night of the murders, the crimes of the incarcerated, and whether any kind of justice would prevail.