In a convoluted effort, a girl recovering from a brutal beating moves from Chicago to Peculiar, Missouri.
Eavesdropping at a gas station, Claire learns immediately that a girl from Peculiar is missing. Readers are already aware of Serena’s disappearance, however; the experiences of a recently dead but inexplicably conscious Serena occupy the book’s prologue as her killer drags her body into the woods. After Claire discovers Serena’s body, Serena begins to haunt Claire, her spirit embedded in the body of an old, feral cat. Worldbuilding is inconsistent from the beginning, and too many confusing story elements are presented as if they ought to be obvious to keep readers from engaging. The living Serena is characterized as pleasant and likable, but Claire is convinced the dead Serena means her harm. Ever since her beating, Claire has experienced nightmares, fear of strangers, and intense reactions to words or sounds that remind her of the incident, but she assumes that what seem to be visual flashbacks to the event are the work of malicious ghosts. Some details are compellingly eerie, particularly the masses of feral cats that roam through town, but others underwhelm: “…each step Claire took echoed inside her, the same way granola cereal echoed inside her ears as she chewed.”
Too scattered to be scary. (Suspense. 14-18)