My Dearest Darkest

Sourcebooks/Fire. Apr. 2022. 368p. pap. $10.99. ISBN 9781728236414.
Gr 9 Up–Teen music prodigy Finch is the sole survivor of a brutal car accident that drowned both of her parents and left her with a shock of white hair and lingering questions about how she survived. Now attending the prestigious Ulalume Academy, Finch is haunted by ominous portents: shimmering pockets of air, sightings of an eight-eyed stag, and an insistent pull coming from the sewer tunnels near the school. Finch eventually forms a friendship with her roommate, Sumera, and a prickly connection to quintessential mean girl Selena St. Clair that deepens into an attraction. During a tunnel party one night, Finch, Selena, and Selena’s cadre of popular friends accidentally free Nerosi, a translucent spirit who initially grants them wishes and seems benevolent, but quickly turns sinister and cannibalistic. As Finch and Selena uncover more disturbing information about Nerosi’s origins and ultimate plans, they realize that they will need to band together to stop her. Although the dialogue in the first few chapters feels choppy and stereotypical (particularly for Selena), this resolves as Selena’s characterization deepens, and Cottingham succeeds in crafting a truly inventive, gruesome horror story that fans of blood and gore will relish. The romance is also sure to be a selling point. Finch grapples with her growing attraction to Selena and her own internalized homophobia, but her conflict is portrayed realistically and ends in a positive, affirming way. Finch and Selena are white, while one of Selena’s friends is described as Asian and Sumera, who is an Arab raised in England, wears a hijab.
VERDICT A first purchase where strong, bloody horror is in demand. Recommended for fans of Katrina Leno.

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