Those We Fear by Victoria Griffith
- Release Date: April 1st, 2016
- Origins: HighLine Editions
- No. of pages: 220
- POV: 3rd person past
- Recommended Age: 14+
- Genres/Themes: YA, supernatural, thriller, mystery, paranormal
- My rating: 5/5 stars
- Source: Ebook, provided by author in lieu of an honest review
When a dangerous situation forces 18-year old Maria to leave her Boston home, she's swept away to Scotland as part of the Witness Protection Program. In a strange land with a new name, Maria hides out as an au pair at the mysterious Harley Estate. Already known as an "over-feeler" - and paranoid for good reason - maria is spooked by the odd behavior of the Harley residents: from the oddly energetic kids in her care, to the miserly nurse with the sheet-white skin, to the attractive yet brooding eldest son, Jonathan. As the days pass, the vanishing portraits, the clocked figures, and the disembodied humming in the dead of the night could perhaps by explained away, but its the discovery of the Harley's macabre and deadly family history that confirms Maria's growing fears and suspicions may be more then just nerves; she may be fallen into something even more horrifying and threatening than what she left behind.
Written with lush Scottish imagery, chilling suspense, and an addicting intensity, Griffith brings a vibrant, contemporary edge to the classic gothic mystery. And make no mistake: skin will crawl.
That moment when a book comes out of nowhere, sets your teeth on edge, and leaves you SCARED AS HELL at 3am in the morning:
No joke, people.
I relentlessly plowed through this book - cover to cover -in the span of a single night... I kept waiting for the proverbial plateau chapter - the one where readers are left with a hint of a cliffhanger to want to read more, but with enough of a micro resolution in the storyline that they can put it down guilt-free till the next free moment - only to find myself manically hitting the next button on my Kindle, bedside clock ignored and my morning alarm pushed back further and further.
Who needs straight hair? *scoff* Not me... And #Bareface is totes trending right now on the Gram... I can read another 20 pages...
Those We Fear is the third book published by Victoria Griffith, and her first escapade down the dark twisted path of contemporary Gothic literature. Her other works include a romance novel, Amazon Burning - based on the real-life murder of famous jungle environmentalist Chico Mendes - and The Fabulous Flying Machines of Alberto Santos-Dumont - an award-winning childrens picture book.
With an impressive curriculum vitae behind her, Ms. Griffith spent 20 years as an international journalist before becoming a full-time author. Most of her journalism years were spent as a foreign correspondent for UK's Financial Times. She also acted as a US science correspondent for the newspaper, serving as a representative in Brazil where she covered topics such as space exploration, the human genome, environmental issues, and Brazil's Yanomami Indians.
WHAT?! This woman got to spend time in the Amazon Rainforest!! #JEALOUS
Why I loved Those We Fear:
Loosely based off of Turn of the Screw
Hopefully most of you are familiar with Henry James' gothic ghost story Turn of the Screw, written in 1898. It's pretty common fare for secondary school reading lists... - and for the musically nerdy, there exists a deliciously twisted version set written for 20th century chamber opera by Benjamin Britten. Hello 12-tone motifs!! *cough*CHOIRNERD*cough*
- Cast - a governess who is hired to care for 2 children who exhibit unusual behavior, and an absent father figure/employer
- Supernatural themes - ghosts, nighttime meanderings by disembodied voices, missing personal items, cloaked figures at the lake, mysterious deaths
- Corruption of innocent - suggestions that the children have been tainted by forces unknown; throughout the novel we're left guessing as to whether Henry and Emma are inherently evil or if they're products of something that happened earlier in their lives, AKA their mother's untimely death, the absence of their father, etc.
This gave the children a very "twins from The Shining" feel.... #TERRIFYING
I thought Griffith did a wonderful job of maintaining traditional elements of gothic literature and throwing them into a fresh, modern perspective.
Instead of the prim and proper English governess from 1840, we get 18 year old, iPhone-toting, t-shirt & jeans wearing Maria Santos, who has been placed in the Witness Protection Program under mysterious circumstances (NO SPOILERS!!), and thrown over the ocean into Scotland, to the crumbling Harley Estate as an au pair for 2 very odd children.
Instead of a horse and carriage picking her up at the train station, we get a very well worn Range Rover that meets her at the airport.
Instead of a pair of sexually deviant ghosts causing ruckus, we are presented with multiple leads of supernatural antagonists: The mother who committed suicide in the lake next to the house? The father who quickly remarried after his wife's tragic death? The previous au pair who's things are strangely left untouched in the servant's wing? In this, Griffith improved on the classic ghost story, morphing it into an intelligent, witty, and sometimes terrifying game of Whodunnit?
Elements of Jane Eyre
Read this excerpt from Those We Fear, and TELL ME it doesn't remind you of a similar scene in Jane Eyre!
A light, too strong to be natural, emanated through an open door at the far end. Gnarled fingers of vapor reached out from within. Smoke. Maria rushed to the threshold. Her marrow froze. Through the haze of grey she saw flashed of color. The bed covers were smoldering red, the canopy above was a riot of yellow flames. And in the middle of the bed Jonathan lay sleeping, as still as a dead man in a coffin.
HELLO?! Jane and Mr. Rochester, anyone?! Except Jonathan doesn't have an insane wife hidden away in the attic causing mischief. The culprit of Those We Fear's fire is another villain entirely... *evil laughter*
There's also a shared theme of absent mother figures: Henry and Emma, like Jane Eyre's Adèle of Thornfield, are motherless, and obviously extremely disturbed by this fact.
Romance: Maria & Jonathan
Like any respectable YA novel, there's a romance - tenuous, but present - between our protagonist and the eldest child of her Scottish employer.
While I really enjoyed the pacing of this relationship, not progressing too quickly with adequate bumps and hitches that make the reader get behind this couple even more, there were a few moments that made me pause...
*bites lower lip*
I'm trying really hard not to reveal spoilers...
I'll just say this... Some of the relationship smacked of trauma bonding to me. Like... if someone's family member is hospitalized and about to die and their siblings almost died multiple times and - and -aaaaand (insert 3 more things I can't reveal but are SERIOUS).... Part of me feels like it's taking advantage of someone during a very emotional moment in their life to expect intimacy of any sort. That might just be me though!! However, I don't think that younger audiences will immediately glean that when they read it. It may be my age talking. #I'manOldSoul
This did NOT keep me from enjoying this aspect (or ANY OTHER) of the novel. It's just my personal opinion. Jonathan has a Scottish accent. That's all you really need. *hehehe*
Overall, I LOVED LOVED LOVED this novel and would highly recommend it to anyone, especially fans of Charlottte Brontë or fans of Henry James gothic literature. Electrifying, goose-bump inducing, turn-the-lights-on-while-reading PERFECTION!