Horrid – Katrina Leno

There was a little girl 
Who had a little curl 
Right in the middle of her forehead. 
And when she was good, 
She was very, very good, 
But when she was bad, she was horrid. 

You’re familiar with the nursery rhyme, right? Well, so is Katrina Leno and she puts it to excellent use in her YA horror novel Horrid. (And look at that fantastic cover!)

Jane and her mother, Ruthellen, have left their lives in Los Angeles and driven across country to Bells Hollow, Maine. Neither of them particularly want to be there, but they have no choice: they have no place else to go. Ruth’s has inherited North Manor, “a large colonial-style mansion with three gables at the front and four white columns supporting a white-railed balcony.” The issue is that the house is dilapidated and creepy, looking like “one big tetanus trap.” Still, Jane and her mother are hoping for a fresh start and a place to heal from their personal tragedy.

Ruth gets a job and Jane resumes her senior year, where she meets and befriends Susie and Alana. School is school and Jane doesn’t have any issues until she encounters Alana’s cousin, Melanie, who seems to dislike her on sight. Jane isn’t interested in drama and besides, Melanie has troubles of her own, including an older sister who is very ill.

North Manor’s reputation as the “creep house” is well-deserved. Lights come on before there is electricity. Jane sees a shadow in an upstairs room. Marbles roll across the floor. The smell of roses is so strong, Jane feels choked by it. There are sounds that Ruth says are just the house settling, but they sound like footsteps to Jane.

In all the usual ways, Horrid is a straight-up haunted house story. And an unsettling one, too. But there’s more going on in Leno’s book than just things that go bump in the night. Jane is tortured by her father’s death and her blind-rage temper, which only he seemed able to subdue. The house seems to exacerbate Jane’s anxiety and when she discovers a decade’s old secret, well things get really interesting.

I really enjoyed reading Horrid. Jane was a sympathetic character and the ending was not YA – all – is – well – in -the – world, which I actually really appreciated. Loads of fun.

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