Genre: Horror Age Range: YA Star Rating: 4 stars Series: Standalone CW: death, drug overdose
Mind games. Murder. Mayhem. How far would you go to survive the night?
Blackmail lures sixteen-year-old Ava to the derelict carnival on Portgrave Pier. She is one of ten teenagers, all with secrets they intend to protect whatever the cost. When fog and magic swallow the pier, the group find themselves cut off from the real world and from their morals. As the teenagers turn on each other, Ava will have to face up to the secret that brought her to the pier and decide how far she’s willing to go to survive.
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
I was expecting this to be a thriller, which is why I started it late at night, only to discover this book leant far more into horror. If I’d known it was horror, I probably would have waited to read it during the day because it was so unnerving.
It did initially start off feeling like a thriller as the characters arrived and the first hints of their secrets came out. I thought it would be a thriller where someone had set them up wanting revenge for something they’d all been part of. However, it very quickly became clear that the book was going to be a horror that played with the mind rather than a mystery.
Lets start with the setting – a disused, abandoned, burnt-out remains of a carnival on an island that was only reached by a derelict pier. There is a hall of mirrors, arcades, photoboths, and abandoned clubs. The setting is the perfect backdrop for the story where memories go missing and nothing is certain. The lights that came on at night signalled that the horror was stepping up, playing on the glitz and unease of a carnival.
The friends all have interweaving secrets that were slowly revealed, as new secrets were created when memories were lost overnight. It was balanced with the rising expectation of who would die next – and how. The deaths were pretty brutal at times, and once the rules became clear (confess your secret and you die) I was waiting to find out the next secret, and then nervous about what the next death was going to look like.
Throughout it, Ava was fighting whispers in her mind and a very unreliable narrator. It was what really made it feel like a horror, the internal fight to resist revealing her secret or kill anyone.
Halfway through reading, I messaged friends who I knew might be interested in the book to get them to read it (just been announced that it will get a US publication – yay for UKYA crossing the pond!) I’m going to keep an eye out for whatever Kathryn Foxfield writes next, and remember to read it during the day.
Read my reviews of other books by Kathryn Foxfield: