Teenagers in love battle a supernatural villain in this debut young-adult novel.
Joy Sumner is an unassuming music student at Ash Grove, a prestigious performing-arts boarding school in North Carolina. Her father is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, so Joy spends her time in the company of her loyal, plucky friends. When they overhear someone teasing a new student about the school’s haunted graveyard, Joy bravely offers to put the myth to the test. She enters the graveyard at midnight and is surprised to find she’s not alone: Tanner Lindsey, a handsome Ash Grove dropout, is brooding there—and he and Joy soon share a dramatic kiss. Joy’s daring graveyard jaunt is overshadowed the next day by news of Melisande, a popular supermodel, arriving in Ash Grove with plans to recruit students as models. Joy is startled to find Tanner among Melisande’s entourage, scantily clad and apparently drowsy with lust for his mentor. He’s known now as Tristan, and he dismisses Joy, causing Joy’s friends to grow suspicious. Tristan appears on Ash Grove’s campus the next day, whisking Joy away and revealing how he went from being Tanner, a neglected musician, to Tristan, Melisande’s most promising protégé. Although Joy is concerned about Melisande’s mysterious power over Tristan, she continues their romance in secret until Melisande and her followers, including Tristan, disappear. While slogging through the emotional fallout, Joy discovers she’s pregnant. Not long after, she experiences a strange “time slip” on campus, and the school’s adults inform her that Ash Grove’s many myths may not be myths after all. Joined by her friends, Joy sets out to rescue Tanner from Melisande’s dangerous spell. The author portrays Joy and her friends smart and easy to love—especially Maddie, her sarcastic and protective best friend (she describes Melisande’s mansion as “the Ikea version” of architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water home.) Readers may wish for a more daring future for Joy, but her and Tanner’s love is consistently believable. Their independence makes Ash Grove a realistic and engaging world, and its seclusion, fierce loyalties among friends, and compassionate adults are Hogwarts-like at times.
A satisfying supernatural YA tale that effectively mixes high school, magic and mystery.