A teenage girl becomes obsessed with a family of reputed witches in this British author's North American debut.
The unreliable narrator, of never-mentioned race so likely white, approximate age 15, has recently moved from a city that might be London to an unnamed town on the sea with her emotionally absent mother after her father disappears. She never reveals her name, instead choosing to go by her “secret name,” River, once she manages to insinuate herself with the mysterious, reclusive Graces. (The Graces are also white; many of the minor characters seem by brief description to be either black or Indian.) Like everyone else in her school, River has a crush on glamour-boy Fenrin Grace, 17. Fenrin's twin, Thalia, frightens her, but it's their younger sister, River's classmate Summer, with whom she forms the strongest bond. Over and over River molds herself into a person who could be best friends with Summer Grace. River's desperate to be part of the Graces' world, for reasons that gradually, horrifyingly, become crystal clear despite River's repeated deceptions, both within the story and in the narration. The ending will make readers want to read the entire novel again, immediately, to admire the clues they missed before. Though the facts may be slippery, the prose never is; it’s precise, vivid, and immediate.
Powerful. (Fantasy. 14 & up)