Seven months after Corey left her hometown of Lost Creek, Alaska, and her best friend, Kyra, behind, she returns, grief-stricken, to learn what caused Kyra’s death.
Expecting the comfort of shared grief over Kyra’s loss, Corey’s instead treated with coldness and suspicion. Kyra’s parents house her with discomfort, and the more Corey probes for answers, the more opposition she faces and the more isolated she becomes. Their friendship had been strained by Kyra’s intensifying bipolar disorder, their different ways of interpreting the world, and Kyra’s unrequited romantic love for Corey, yet their bond endured until Corey moved away. Thereafter, Kyra painted obsessively—vibrant murals and vivid paintings in town and at the abandoned hot springs resort where she spent her last months. The community expresses new reverence for Kyra and her art, which they view as revitalizing the community’s fortunes. Mysteries proliferate: what accounts for the abundant fresh salmonberry flowers in January? Corey’s isolation is compounded by both the isolated Alaska setting and a sense of horrors hidden in plain sight. What’s missing is a connection between the two girls’ complicated friendship and the archetypal horror narrative that fuels the tale’s compulsive readability. The author’s avoidance of clear references to Alaska’s Native heritage belies the thematic insistence on the power of storytelling to shape the world. Settlers stole the land, readers are told, but the story of this thievery remains untold.
Intriguingly spooky but never quite coheres. (Suspense. 12-16)