High school junior Willa’s coastal Maine world has been rocked by tragedy.
Before the beginning of Mitchell’s latest paranormal outing (The Elementals, 2012, etc.), tenacious lobsterwoman Willa enlisted the aid of her younger brother, Levi, to retaliate after another lobsterman repeatedly interfered with her father’s traps. As Willa tells in flashback, when they got back from their trap-destruction foray, the man was waiting on the dock and murdered the boy. Still wracked by grief and guilt, although supported by her boyfriend and her appealingly depicted lesbian best friend, Willa begins to feel the draw of the Grey Man, a mythic, ghostly figure who haunts an offshore lighthouse. Alternating chapters are related by Willa and the Grey Man, who was lured to the island and entrapped a century earlier; he must remain there until he catches 1,000 souls of those who die in or near the sea—or finds a willing replacement to fill his job. As Willa’s world continues to fall apart, that option sometimes seems attractive to her. Mild creepiness and limited suspense result, sustained by lyrical writing that sometimes fails, particularly in Willa’s case, to feel like an authentic voice.
Although it includes all the necessary components—lots of fog, a ghostly presence and an alienated teenage girl—this effort never quite achieves a compelling level of peril and creepiness. (Paranormal fiction. 11-18)