A teenage girl struggles to survive as one of four young spiritual guides held captive by a mysterious cult leader in this chiller from Australia.
Esther lives on a secluded farm with three other young people, all of whom are allowed varying degrees of freedom to move about the farm. Esther is not allowed to leave the front porch of the farmhouse, ever. She knows she’s being watched at all times by him, a demanding and cruel unnamed captor who holds Esther and the others against their will, forcing them to portray the Special Ones, virtual spiritual guides for people seeking self-improvement. (The Special Ones are all white.) Followers of The Special Ones tune in nightly via internet chat to ask for advice, but Esther knows that she and the others are faking. They’re just regular kids. But if they don’t follow his weird and ritualistic rules, they risk punishment. The ultimate punishment is “renewal”—being taken away from the farm and never seen again. As daily survival becomes more challenging, the pressure mounts for Esther to keep up the ruse or face the uncertainty of renewal and his judgment. Riveting from the very first chapter, Esther’s story is unpredictable and chilling, her narration viscerally revealing the quiet terrors of captivity and brainwashing. The Special Ones don’t really have any special wisdom, but the characters—even him—are unforgettable.
A complex, enthralling page-turner. (Thriller. 12-17)