A Lesson in Vengeance

Delacorte. Aug. 2021. 384p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780593305829.
Gr 9 Up–Eighteen-year-old Felicity Morrow has returned to Dalloway School after time away recovering from the trauma of her ex-girlfriend’s death. The blonde teen is determined to finish her thesis and break her obsession with the witchcraft rooted deep in the school’s history. But Dalloway’s occult past is everywhere, and Felicity’s first obstacle appears in the form of 17-year-old writing prodigy Ellis; Felicity’s other new housemates–-Kajal, Clara, and Leonie— fall under Ellis’s spell as quickly as Felicity. Felicity is certain she’s being haunted. Is it the ghost of her ex-girlfriend back for revenge? The spirit they let loose last term? Or is it the contradictory Ellis, who ensures magic and witchcraft are never far from Felicity’s mind? Through a multilayered plot described in devastatingly poetic prose, Lee crafts a dark academic environment of secrets and shadows. As Felicity unravels, she instinctively turns to tarot, candles, and herbs, and Ellis encourages and discourages Felicity in turn. Felicity’s trauma and mental illness and Ellis’s manipulation are intensified by substance abuse, violence, and death. Social issues such as class privilege, sexuality, and racism are also touched upon. With two unreliable main characters in a story rich in uncertainty and suspense, readers will rush along the work’s twisty path to a very satisfying ending. Kajal has brown skin; Leonie is Black. Everyone else is presumed white.
VERDICT Teens will be as haunted by this narrative as the characters within its pages.

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