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John Ajvide Lindqvist is single-handedly establishing Swedish horror as a sub-genre of its own. Although there’s some debate as to whether Harbor is really a horror novel. Our reviewer says it plays out as more fantasy than horror, while others find it closer to psychological thriller. I think this is only to its advantage when it comes to teen readers. Many teens want something scary, but not TOO scary. Creepy and unsettling, but not terrifying.
Lindqvist is best known for his first novel, Let the Right One In (Thomas Dunne, 2008). Next he took on zombies in Handling the Undead (Thomas Dunne, 2010). Now he takes on the sea.
LINDQVIST, John Ajvide. Harbor. tr. from Swedish by Marlaine Delargy. 512p. Thomas Dunne. 2011. Tr $25.99. ISBN 9787-0-312-68027-5. LC number unavailable.
Adult/High School–The waters giveth, the waters taketh away. Though providing a beautiful setting and a good livelihood for the people of Domarö, the seas surrounding the island exact a price. The disappearance of a small child–one in a series of disappearances and strange occurrences that residents prefer to let go unexplained–sets off a search to uncover the secrets of the waters that, while well known, are never discussed. Readers learn that the island’s inhabitants have a long history of being bullied by the waters and that one man–a former magician–has a special relationship with them. What begins as a struggle to uncover the truth about their power turns into a man’s unyielding quest to bring back his missing daughter. Horrifying things do happen in this book, but the events are described in a semi-mystical way, with a very matter of fact tone that lets readers keep some degree of distance from what’s happening. Not unlike Ransom Riggs’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Quirk, 2011), the mystery of the terrifying incidents is unraveled in a way that is more fantasy than horror. This is a good choice for teens who enjoy scary stories but don’t want to be kept up at night.–Carla Riemer, Berkeley High School, CA
Filed under: Fantasy
About Angela Carstensen
Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.
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