Big, big thanks to Dave @TheWriteReads for inviting me to this amazing Ultimate Blog Tour, as well as to the author Kat Ellis and Penguin! I’m almost a bit embarrassed to admit it, but I joined Netgalley for this tour, so I will be writing my first ever Netgalley review for this book, too!
I don’t usually read horror or psychological thrillers very often (if at all), I think my last spooky read was The Diviners by Libba Bray. While the theme – big-city-girl-moves-to-small-spooky-town-wit- creep- museum reminded me a bit of that, the execution was totally different, and it had a bit of a less scary but more thrilling and captivating (literally) kind of feel to it. I’ll tell you why I think so, but first, the blurb…
Synopsis from Goodreads
Welcome to Harrow Lake. Someone’s expecting you . . .
Lola Nox is the daughter of a celebrated horror filmmaker – she thinks nothing can scare her.
But when her father is brutally attacked in their New York apartment, she’s swiftly packed off to live with a grandmother she’s never met in Harrow Lake, the eerie town where her father’s most iconic horror movie was shot.
The locals are weirdly obsessed with the film that put their town on the map – and there are strange disappearances, which the police seem determined to explain away.
And there’s someone – or something – stalking her every move.
The more Lola discovers about the town, the more terrifying it becomes. Because Lola’s got secrets of her own. And if she can’t find a way out of Harrow Lake, they might just be the death of her.
Have you got chills running down your spine? Good. Because you are in for a ghost train ride with Kat Ellis’ Harrow Lake.
Having seen the cover of this book, I was super nervous to read this, as I’m not exactly a horror reader or fan of the genre – I get spooked very easily. And yet the synopsis pulled me in! I’ve had a very hard time sticking to one book since the beginning of lockdown, and even if I liked one, it took me days – or even weeks – and lots of pushing myself to turn the pages. Not so with Harrow Lake. I had this read in a day and a half – of which I was working one whole day! If that doesn’t speak for itself, I don’t know what is. But let me get more into detail.
Lola, the main character, is a bit hard to like at first. She comes across as the usual teenager coming from a broken family – as so many characters in YA do these days. However, as the story progresses, more and more secrets about her family are unraveled, and let me tell you – none of them are really what they seem, and Lola’s reasons as to why she is like she is start to make an awful lot of sense.
In the beginning of the book, Lola finds her father Nolan, the famous horror movie maker, with severe wounds on the floor of their apartment. Is he dead? Who did this to him? These and more questions follow Lola when she is sent to Harrow Lake – the town where Nolan’s most famous film ever was set – to stay with her estranged grandmother.
I don’t want to get into Lola’s family too much because I don’t want to spoiler you, but I got some very creepy vibes off her grandmother, especially. Not only that, most of the people Lola meets in Harrow Lake are creepy as hell – and they aren’t even the actual monsters that are awaiting Lola… Or are they?
Harrow Lake is not only known for its famous horror movie – it also has its very own monster. Mr. Jitters, a creepy, too smiley, too scary puppet come to life through the help of an urban legend that was born almost a century prior to the current happenings in the town. When a landslide buried a church and several of the town’s people, it also created a monster. One that is still roaming the place, and now is coming for Lola.
However, creepy Mr. Jitters isn’t the only thing in the book that made my spine tingle. Behind very dark secrets, there’s also spooky tunes that garnish the town’s weird 1920s vibe. Invisible speakers, caves whose halls reflect the sounds – music and tunes is something that can turn into something very spooky when done nicely – and Kat Ellis delivered.
Another thing that Lola costantly talks about was ‘jitterbugs’. I had no idea what they were through most of the book – I imagined them as something like bugs in a walnut shell – but their description raised the little hairs on my neck. Especially because they seemed to foreshadow Mr. Jitters – or another monster – coming for Lola.
Now, I have no idea how to say something about the other thing that really creeped me out without giving too much away, but let me just tell you – there is something else. And it really creeped me out 🤣🤣🤣 I really can’t give more away because this part is not mentioned in the synopsis or anywhere else that I read about Harrow Lake so far, and I really want you to have the same kind of feeling-hot-and-cold-from-fear-moment that I had.
Harrow Lake – in my opinion – is a mix of dark psychological thrilled and YA horror. Sometimes more of the one theme, sometimes more of the other. It has gothic elements that I really loved to see in a contemporary YA thriller, is fast-paced and enthralling. I could hardly put it down in between eating, sleeping and working, and was constantly on the edge of my seat thinking about what the ending would be like. It entertained me, was on my thoughts all day long and even after putting it down it didn’t leave my mind.
However, there was one thing that annoyed me a bit: Lola kept refer to or measuring things as ‘Optimal’. Since the word was capitalised and she used it over and over, it felt like it meant something on a deeper level, yet we never find out what. I could get over it because it trickles out towards the end, but I did feel annoyed in the beginning Just something small I had to mention, but it didn’t really take away from my reading joy much.
Having an unreliable, possibly unstable narrator did this book a lot of good. In the end, I realised I don’t have to love Lola as a person in order to like her as a character in the book. She does her job well, falling into the same traps like those silly horror flick victims her father created – even though she was taught never to show fear. The town doesn’t make it easy to escape this though. With no cellphone reception, no internet, a hardly ever working landline and no other way to escape, what else was Lola supposed to do? I really started to root for her towards the end.
4.5 well-deserved stars from me for this thrilling read!
This book will be released in July – make sure not to read it at night!!
Thanks for reading, everyone!