Gothic mysteries from Jane Eyre to Rebecca to Diane Setterfield’s Alex Award-winning The Thirteenth Tale are popular with teen readers who enjoy mystery, suspense, romance, and a touch of horror or the supernatural.
One of my favorites, which also has teen appeal, is John Harwood’s The Ghost Writer (Houghton Mifflin, 2004). It is a layered, spooky ghost story about a boy who discovers his mother’s secret past. And Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart is an all-time favorite of one of my student bookgroup members. I really must add it to my pile!
Today’s review highlights Kate Morton, who has recently made a name for herself in the genre.
MORTON, Kate. The Distant Hours. 560p. Atria. 2010. Tr $26. ISBN 978-1-4391-5278-2. LC number unavailable.
Adult/High School–In 1992, Edie Burchill’s life is on the downturn. She’s just broken up with her (first and only) longtime boyfriend and her relationship with her parents, never easy, is so bad that she can’t even tell them. So when a long-lost letter arrives and her typically reserved mother dissolves into pained sobs, Edie immerses herself in the mystery. And what a mystery: during WWII, Edie’s mother was evacuated to Milderhurst Castle along with the Blythe sisters, including beautiful, mesmerizing Juniper. This is a fat, fireside gothic that weaves between Edie’s story as she researches the Blythes and the story of Edie’s mother and the sisters during the war. The tales intertwine and echo one another (Edie and the sisters are haunted by overlapping family secrets and by the children’s book written by the sisters’ father), and revelations are parsed out slowly, building to an intense climax when all secrets are finally laid out and laid to rest. Morton is known for exactly this kind of cross-generational English gothic, leavened with the merest hint of romance, and her growing popularity (already considerable in her native Australia) is deserved. The Distant Hours takes too long to get going (although once it does, it’s addictive, especially the 1940s scenes), but teens who liked Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale (Atria, 2006)–and didn’t mind the pacing of Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian (Little, Brown, 2005)–should enjoy this book and will be delighted to know about Morton’s earlier (and shorter!) titles: The House at Riverton (2008) and The Forgotten Garden (2009, both Atria).–Karen Silverman, LREI, Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School, New York City