Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Publishing Date: June 2010
Genre: gothic, Southern gothic, mystery, young adult
Iris is ready for another hot, routine summer in her small Louisiana town, hanging around the Red Stripe grocery with her best friend, Collette, and traipsing through the cemetery telling each other spooky stories and pretending to cast spells. Except this summer, Iris doesn’t have to make up a story. This summer, one falls right in her lap.
Years ago, before Iris was born, a local boy named Elijah Landry disappeared. All that remained of him were whispers and hushed gossip in the church pews. Until this summer. A ghost begins to haunt Iris, and she’s certain it’s the ghost of Elijah. What really happened to him? And why, of all people, has he chosen Iris to come back to?
Fourteen-year-old Iris and her friend Collette decide to do something different this summer in their teeny tiny town: speak to the dead. At first, Iris pretends to just go along with Collette hearing things and seeing things. Until one night, Iris really does hear something: a boy’s voice. Over the course of the summer, the girls begin to piece together the town’s one and only piece of unfinished news about a boy named Elijah who disappeared and whose body was never found.
Although the narrator is naive and has a voice that seems much younger and far more imaginative than a fourteen-year-old, Iris does tell the story well and through plain and simple language. She doesn’t like to be bossed around by Collette but is afraid to lose her best friend. She’s not interested in boys but really wishes Elijah would come out and just say what he wants from her rather than pelting her bedroom with rocks.
The story was haunting and a perfect ghost story to tell around a camp fire. It also captures the heart of Southern Gothic: God-fearing and superstitious people, children wandering around saying they’re afraid of witchcraft but they pretend to do spells anyway, knowing the proper way to bury the dead based on who can go to heaven and who can go to hell. The sweltering heat, playing around by the river, and the ghost lights that float away from the bayou all created such a rich atmosphere for this chilling tale.