Thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan Audio for the ARC. It has not affected the content of my review.
I requested this on a whim last week after I happened to see it on NetGalley, and only the day before a YouTuber I just started watching had gotten a physical ARC. It sounded interesting, and I’ve been (weirdly and uncharacteristically) gravitating towards creepy and horror-type books in the last six months. This hit the spot for me. I was a bit nervous because the early reviews on this one so far are all over the place (a lot of low and high ratings) but it worked for me. If you’re into audiobooks, this is a good one, but if you go that route, I’d also recommend tracking down a physical copy, or maybe a PDF download of the illustrations. I found out only after I was 75% of the way through the book that there are a ton of illustrations accompanying the story, none of which the audio ARC provided. (I ordered it from my library so I can look at them after the fact.)
The hook is also a good one. Our main character is Mallory, a twenty-one year old who is getting back on her feet after leaving rehab and her halfway house eighteen months sober after an opioid addiction spiraled out of control. Since this is a thing that is happening more and more to everyone across the US, it felt relevant and timely. (Also, there is a not insignificant amount of criticism here of the way that people with addictions are treated and looked down upon, even by people who are supposedly sympathetic to them.) Also, not gonna lie, it was incredibly refreshing to read a book of suspense where the female narrator wasn’t unreliable because she was drunk or high, or mentally ill. Mallory has a good head on her shoulders, and she’s worked hard to overcome her addictions and stay on the path of recovery, which makes it all the more frustrating when her past is thrown in her face and used against her to make her doubt herself.
The main plot here is that Mallory is hired to look after the son of a wealthy couple in a small, quiet town. Teddy is five, and is sweet and adorable, and Mallory quickly bonds with him. When he starts giving her creepy as hell drawings of his imaginary friend, Anya, and the drawings are becoming more and more sophisticated and disturbing, Mallory and her new friend Adrian become convinced that there is a spirit using little Teddy to channel its message.
If you like thrillers and horror books that are more on the creepier end of the genre than the gory and violent end, I think this is definitely worth checking out. I found Mallory and some of the other secondary characters to be really well fleshed out, and often Rekulak avoids them falling into cliched thriller beats and traps (there is a lot of communication going on between the main character and her bosses, for example). By the time I hit the last chapter of the book, I was really invested in what was going to happen to both Mallory and Teddy, and felt satisfied by the answer.