Under This Red Rock

HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen. Mar. 2024. 336p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780063230415.
Gr 10 Up–Sixteen-year-old Neely is used to being seen as the weird girl, the unstable girl, the girl with the dead mom and the brother who died by suicide. Years after her dad (who had severe mental illness) walked out on her family, Neely lives with her grandparents, and she’s determined to make their lives as easy as she can. That’s why she doesn’t say anything about hearing voices that nobody else can hear, or about being gay. That’s also why she decides to get a summer job at the East Independence caverns, the largest cave system in Ohio. At work, where the voices don’t follow her underground, she finally feels the sense of normalcy she’s craved and develops a crush on Mila, the gorgeous, charismatic tour lead. But when Mila goes missing after a party and ultimately dies a gruesome death, Neely begins to doubt her own memories of the night in question. Fans of McGinnis’s characteristically gritty plots and lush, evocative prose will find much to admire here. An almost unbearably foreboding mood suffuses the read with tension even before the plot kicks in. Many thematic elements make this title best for mature readers who are prepared for complex mental health content: a suicide is graphically depicted, and Neely finds disturbing, incel-like messages online that a friend says her brother wrote before his death. Main characters are cued as white.
VERDICT Haunting and enormously gripping, but the suicide content deserves consideration for sensitive readers.

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