A historical, Young Adult, horror novels that jumps right in with the good stuff. Well, I am imagining being a young reader and how wild this book starts out would seem to me then. We begin with our narrator Amanda, a 16 year old mountain-dwelling girl, hooking up with the post boy who recently started delivering the mail. She seems to love him, and he seems to love her, and when she gets pregnant, she hatches a plan to run away with him, knowing that her mother and father will be furious, if not violent when they find out about the pregnancy. To provide some context, we begin this novel in very close first person narration and the myopia of being a teenager in love (lust) and then stress and terror of getting pregnant means that some of the context and background aren’t available to the reader yet. What we slowly find out is that Amanda is the oldest of five (I think) and that her next younger sister and her are very close. Stress is high in the family because of recent signs of economic collapse in the area the perpetual stress of the newest member of the family, an infant who was born blind and deaf from a high fever their mother contracted while pregnant. The time period of the novel is unclear, but my guess is early 1800s in America. There’s a working water pump at one moment and some discussions of firearms, but the setting is mostly about creating the tension and atmosphere. Anyway, the plan does not work and Henry bolts. The family, still unaware of Amanda’s situation, decides to move to a house on the prairie that they find out about, and when they arrive, it’s been used as some sort of slaughterhouse. They have to camp outside of it for the first few weeks.
In the meantime they meet a local boy who promises to tell them scary stories. The issue of course is what happens when some of those stories come true?
The pacing, the fear, the characterization in this novel are solid and effective. I wouldn’t try to mistake it for a historical novel because it’s got some issues, including a long (and completely unnecessary) discussion about how shotguns are not for hunting (spoiler: yes they are).