A debut YA mystery weaves together threads of family and ghosts.
Ben Wolf has always been special, possessing empathic and clairvoyant abilities. Innate knowledge of the emotions of people around him as well as the locations of lost items and the facts of events he hasn’t seen has helped him out plenty in the past. But this talent has been hidden from everyone but his mother, as many might see it as freakish or frightening. The story is told from Ben’s point of view, and his matter-of-fact voice carries the early exposition and sets up the story effectively. As the narrative tension grows, readers also get a strong sense of his emotions as well as a feeling of immediacy that drives home some of the stranger happenings. Secrecy has allowed Ben to help people avoid disasters more than once, but secrets can also be dangerous or even deadly. When Ben’s distant Aunt Claire dies and leaves him and his mom a house in rural Windward Cove, California, their simple life is uprooted in more ways than one. At first, Ben is mostly concerned about starting high school in a new town, and he has little interest in his family ties to Windward Cove’s founding. But strange things soon start happening: cold spots, sudden feelings of depression and emptiness, odd laughter or strange voices. Ben needs every bit of his gift to find out why, and fast. Because, worst of all, his happy, outgoing, creative mom seems to be drawn to these haunting occurrences even more than he is, and the more time passes, the more they seem to take from her, until her very life is in jeopardy. Investigating the history of a place is a familiar trope for horror fans, but Ben’s powers and his family’s connection to the town put a novel spin on this idea and raise the emotional stakes. With solid, action-focused prose to drive Lafferty’s story forward, the pages keep turning and the mystery continues to unfold, offering readers of all ages a genuinely engrossing yarn.
Wistful and intriguing, this tale dips its toes in horror but feels like a dream more than a nightmare.