Thursday, February 29, 2024

I Will Follow and The Girls From Hush Cabin

Corrigan, Eireann. I Will Follow 
February 6, 2024 by Scholastic Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Nora is obsessed with the social media dance stare Shea, as a way to detach from her life. Her mother has passed away, and her father, whom she calls Sonny, is a disaster prepper who has the two living in a remote location in shipping containers. Shea has her own probles; she started dancing after her father died and her mother slipped into a deep depression. Now, her mother is engaged to marry her best friend Delaney's father. Delaney, who is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, is supportive of Shea but a little bitter about her almost a million followers and the free items she gets from sponsors and fans. The two are planning an elaborate dance for the parents' wedding, and have a disagreement about whether or not it should be posted. They barely notice that Nora shows up at the dance studio, claiming to have scheduled it. Later, Shea goes to the fair, and is irritated that her mother has scheduled an appearance. She just wants to hang out with her friends, but when she is in the funhouse, Nora approaches her an drugs her with an injection! Having stolen her father's truck, Nora drags Shea, drooling and half conscious, into the truck and takes off into the wilderness, heading toward a family cabin. There, she handcuffs Shea to the bed and outlines her plan. The two of them will become best friends, and create new content together. Nora even goes as far as pressing the sleeping Shea's thumb to her phone screen to unlock it, changing the password, and posting pictures on the account hinting that she is on vacation. Shea tries to survive. While Nora feeds her and even gives her medicine for the wound caused by the handcuffs, she is mercurial, and Shea never knows how she will react. The two do some dances together, but these cause concern for Shea's family, who have alerted the police to her disappearance. The police, however, are treating it as a runaway teen situation. Nora is enraged by the negative comments about her dancing. Clearly unstable (early on, she is shown communicating with an older sister about much needed therapy sessions), Nora holds Shea captive. As the videos include more and more bizarre music, the family try to figure out where Shea is being held. Will they be able to locate her before Nora's behavior becomes unsafe?
Strengths: I'm not sure my students will appreciate it, but I did love Shea's insights on her social media presence, and how perhaps certain actions were unwise. I do tell my students they shouldn't post pictures of themselves at school or in local sports uniforms, and this clearly shows why. The thing that will  make this popular is the abduction; fifteen years ago I couldn't keep titles like Mazer's The Solid Gold Kid (1977), Nixon's The Kidnapping of Christina Lattimore (1979), Duncan's Ransom (1990), and of course, the hugely popular The Face on the Milk Carton (1990) by Caroline Cooney. Henry's The Girl in the White Van (2020) and The Night She Disappeared (2012). I'm not entirely sure why abduction stories strike such a cord in middle grade readers, but they do. This has a good level of threatening behaviors without being too scary. I also appreciated the shout out to Warner's The Boxcar Children. 
Weaknesses: Once again, Scholastic only publishes horror in paperback. Corrigan's Remedy (2021), Creep (2019), and Accomplice (2010) all circulate steadily, so I would love to have this in hardcover. 
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, and this will be popular with students; just look at that creepy cover. Once I mention social media, there will be fights breaking out. Maybe I should buy two copies. 

Hoy-Kenny, Marie. The Girls From Hush Cabin.
August 15, 2023 by Blackstone Publishing
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Holly, Denise, Calista, and Zoe are all in high school, ready to plan the next chapters of their lives when they find out that their favorite camp counselor, has died. Violet, who was a strong swimmer, drowned in her mother's swimming pool, and the girls suspect foul play right away. When Violet was their counselor, her boyfriend went missing, and another girl at the camp was found dead, so there is reason to be suspicious. The four reconvene for a long weekend to attend the funeral and other memorial events, and try to solve the mystery despite other problems going on in their lives. Holly is glad to be away from home, where she lives with her mother after her father's death, and her very controlling boyfriend. Zoe is hoping to meet a young man to marry, since her college prospects are limited, and even spends times on dating apps, meeting men in bars with a fake identity card. Denise is romantically interested in one of the college friends that is grieving Violet's passing, Janie, which causes complications. Calista has a large, close-knit family, and isn't sure how she will be able to move forward without them. As the story unfolds, we find that Violet had a lot of influence over the girls, who were in late elementary and middle school. For the first four years, Violet was a fun counselor, but during the last year, she took an odd turn. She had the girls spying on other campers, stealing items from people, and generally being sneaky and dishonest. What part did she have in the disappearance of her boyfrience, and the death of the girl? What did she do that caused the past to have such serious repercussions? And will the former campers investigating her death solve the mystery and manage to stay safe themselves?

Summer camp seems like such an innocent experience, and the girls have generally good memories of Violet. Slowly, details begin to emerge about the ways that she manipulated and mistreated their trust, but I don't want to spoil any of the plot! There's plenty of dark secrets, clandestine assignations, and murderous subplots to keep readers turning the pages of this dark and twisted tale. 

This is told from alternate viewpoints of the four main characters, Holly, Denise, Calista, and Zoe. I found this to be a little confusing, but readers who enjoy this style will love the deep dives into the circumstances of each. I thought Holly was the most interesting character, and was glad that she was able to get away from her controlling boyfriend, but didn't like the way that the other girls treated her.

Since the girls often engage in more adult behaviors, like drinking, and have a more mature vocabulary, this is more suited to young adult readers who enjoyed titles like Natasha Preston's The Island (2023)and Stoffel's Fright Night (2020). Younger readers who want similarly creepy titles with a more upper middle grade approach to social behavior might look instead at Henry's Eyes of the Forest (2021).

Ms. Yingling

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