In debut author Ritchie’s first entry in a planned YA fantasy trilogy, a teenager is targeted by strange creatures in her small town.
Twyla Sokolovsky has been plagued with nightmares since her father’s murder a decade ago. The killer was a “monster” with “glowing red eyes,” and she only narrowly escaped death herself. However, everything else seems fine as she enters her senior year at East Riverbed High; she even makes the cheerleading squad, along with her best friend, Carol. But trouble starts with the arrival of a ruggedly handsome new student named Hunter Black. A teacher enlists Twyla to show Hunter around the school, as they attend the same classes. However, head cheerleader and resident bully Sarah White takes offense to their burgeoning relationship, as she feels entitled to first dibs on the attractive new guy. Shortly afterward, a creature, just like the one from 10 years ago, attacks Twyla in the woods. Later, Carol shockingly sides with Sarah’s hateful “minions” against Twyla. Soon Twyla begins to suspect that there are other supernatural beings in the area, other than the red-eyed monsters—and they’ll go to extreme lengths to keep her quiet about their existence. Ritchie’s novel offers a stellar blend of fantastic goings-on and teenage high school struggles. The author effectively sketches out Twyla’s everyday travails before the preternatural elements creep in; for instance, it turns out that Sarah has taunted the protagonist for years. The story becomes unnerving in later chapters, when it becomes clear that established characters, such as Hunter, are hiding something big. Twyla’s first-person narration is convincing, and her frequent ruminations are neurotic but charming: “Are monsters real? Did I get attacked by one? Was that real too? Most importantly, am I really falling in love with this guy?” Despite conspicuous similarities to Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, this story gradually reveals an original plot that stands on its own. The final chapter takes a radical turn that resolves lingering questions and deftly sets up a sequel.
An immensely likable protagonist and consistently absorbing plot lay the groundwork for a promising series.