CW: loss of family members, eating disorder, mental illness
Undeniably at first glance, Horrid by Katrina Leno has such a gorgeous cover that you really can’t ignore. A bit of this dark, gloomy rose-covered book:
“Following her father’s death, Jane North-Robinson and her mom move from sunny California to the dreary, dilapidated old house in Maine where her mother grew up. All they want is a fresh start, but behind North Manor’s doors lurks a history that leaves them feeling more alone…and more tormented.
As the cold New England autumn arrives, and Jane settles into her new home, she finds solace in old books and memories of her dad. She steadily begins making new friends, but also faces bullying from the resident “bad seed,” struggling to tamp down her own worst nature in response. Jane’s mom also seems to be spiraling with the return of her childhood home, but she won’t reveal why. Then Jane discovers that the “storage room” her mom has kept locked isn’t for storage at all–it’s a little girl’s bedroom, left untouched for years and not quite as empty of inhabitants as it appears….” Little, Brown and Company.
We meet Jane and her mother, Ruth, as they make their life-altering move across the country. Slowly into the book, you realize that Jane seems like your average teen just trying to push through what life throws at you and just rolling with it. On the other hand, Ruth appears like she’s always holding onto a secret or secrets and keeping Jane on the outskirts. Well, in a small town, nothing is ever a secret. Everyone knows everyone, and privacy isn’t something that sticks in places like these. Just like with Latinx families there’s no such thing as minding one’s business. With that, everyone knows what happened at North Manor while Jane doesn’t. To cope with grief, loss, and secrecy Jane turns away from others and submerges herself into her consuming words of others. Literally.
But things start to happen, things that would make me tell my mother I’m living at my new best friend’s house and good luck with the haunted house. As Jane starts to peel back the lies and deception around North Manor, she faces a horrid truth where she doesn’t shy away from…
The overall pace was pretty slow until you reached the last quarter of the book. You witness Ruth start to unravel as Jane looks deeper into the dark history of North Manor. You also get to see Jane face who she really is. There are small teasers here and there, of something malicious going on, a supernatural entity, family secrets, but nothing truly unfolds until the end. You’re just smacked in the face with ALL OF the DRAMA, THE LIES, AND DECEPTION. Like dios mio. At one point, you feel like you have Jane figured out and maybe can predict what her decision might be, but BIG OL’ NOPE. When I finished the book, I was left a little stunned, not gonna lie. Leno keeps the reader on their feet and like in a movie theater when you’re yelling at the actress to “NOT LOOK BEHIND THE DOOR” because the killer is there, in this case behind the next page is another twisted scare.
I am a huge sucker for gorgeous illustrations and really small touches that highlight the book. This book doesn’t disappoint. If family drama and secrecy, suspense, and Agatha Christie references are your thing, pick up Horrid by Katrina Leno you’ll have a terribly good time.
Check out other titles by Katrina Leno here.