Alabama teens combine prayer and the supernatural to guide a friend’s soul to the afterlife.
Ever since her best friend Holly’s accidental drowning, Jane, a home-schooled “Jesus dork,” has experienced a terrible crisis of faith. Unable to sleep and convinced that Holly’s soul is trapped in the Drowned Forest—a stand of trees flooded by a dam—at the bottom of their slow-moving, fetid river, Jane enlists the help of Tyler, Holly’s grieving boyfriend, to put her to rest. Their successful use of music to summon Holly’s spirit breaks their hearts anew, as the version of Holly who emerges from the river is deadly to everyone she touches. Horrified and rightly convinced that her parents and pastor won’t understand the situation, Jane runs away from home, crashing on a local bar band’s couch while she and Tyler race to unravel the mystery of Holly’s trapped spirit and send her peacefully on to the other side before she destroys them. This richly atmospheric debut gets off to a slow start and relies a little too heavily on Jane’s series of intuitive leaps to resolve the plot, but Reisz’s love and respect for his characters and their milieu is evident on every page, and his use of the Deep South’s regional mythology is deliciously chilling.
A solid creepfest from an author with potential. (Supernatural mystery. 13-16)