The Haunting of Lily Frost by Nova Weetman

Thursday, May 8, 2014

This room holds secrets, and even if they are of the dark–frightening type, I love secrets more than anything else.
When Lily Frost’s parents move her from the only home and best friend she’s ever known to a country town called Gideon, things are dire. Lily knows no one – but someone seems to know her. And that someone isn’t exactly the welcoming type.
Upon entering her new attic bedroom, Lily faints. Coming to, she’s overcome by the whispers of secrets. Determined to find out why, Lily is thrown into the path of cute local boy Danny. He’s not giving anything away, so it’s up to Lily to make sense of the watery footprints on her floor and the cold air that constantly seeps into her bones.
For Lily, life in this small town is about to get very interesting as she finds herself seeing things she thought belonged to the dead.

I am continually impressed with the lovely Australian YA published by University of Queensland Press, and the Haunting of Lily Frost doesn't disappoint (and how good is the cover?). The novel opens with a memory: Lily as a young child, terrified of next door's dog and almost drowning in the pool, foreshadowing things to come and setting the scene beautifully.

I would recommend this to younger YA readers (let's say twelve to sixteen) though I'm very wary of putting age suggestions on books because tons of adults love YA and tons of younger kids read at a higher level (I remember always wanting to read about people older than me, in this very aspirational way. Later I discovered that at age 16 you do not really discover you are a princess, or have an epic romance, or develop superpowers. How disappointing). But I think you'll enjoy this novel more if you can relate to Lily's frustrations - of not being in control of her life when her parents move her away, and of really longing to fit in. Lily as a character reads as young - captivated by trying to solve the mystery, she makes some really poor decisions (I would have told my mum when I started feeling a watery ghostly presence in my room, or when jackets belonging to dead people materialised).

I found it reminiscent of both Shirley Marr's Preloved and Karen Tayleur's Love Notes From Vinegar House, especially the gothic elements of the latter. I was reminded also of Karen Foxlee's The Midnight Dress, even though that doesn't have a ghostly theme. It balances supernatural mystery and the ordinary frustrations of being a kid (trying to fit in at a new school, missing and losing friends, being bored in the middle of nowhere) really well. I think this is a really promising debut by Weetman, and I look forward to what she writes next (especially if it's non-supernatural - the social dynamics of high school were really nicely illustrated in this novel). You like novels about ghosts in creepy old houses and sassy teenage mystery-solvers? Read it.
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