Tighter, by Adele Griffin
It is a truth universally acknowledged by babysitters and horror film directors: there is nothing scarier than cute little kids. At least, as Henry James explored in The Turn of the Screw, than cute little kids whose innocence is just a front for unutterable evil.
And what does Henry James have to do with this psychological thriller? Just enough, starting with the title, to allow literature students to nod their heads knowingly at the resonances to James’s classic ghost story. But not enough, don’t worry, to make homework out of this fast, spooky read.
Seventeen-year-old Jamie has a cushy job for the summer: au pair for a wealthy gentleman who’s leaving her in charge of his summer house on the resort island of Little Bly. Responsible for his young niece Isa, Jamie is relieved to get away from the calamities of the last year: a painful sports injury, a dangerous flirtation with an older man, and a spiral downwards into what her mom calls “mopiness,” without recognizing how sinister Jamie’s moods have really become. But her relaxing summer away starts unraveling with the unexpected arrival of Isa’s handsome older brother, just kicked out of school. Acts of vandalism around the house. And revelations about her predecessor, last summer’s au pair, who died in a tragic airplane accident with another local teen. Funny… because Jamie saw them just the other day. Or did she?
As readers of Turn of the Screw have wondered for years: is the governess seeing ghosts or having the vapors? We know that Jamie isn’t a reliable narrator (or babysitter!). The last thing she did before leaving for Little Bly was to steal handfuls of pills from her parents’ prescription stash. Alternately obsessed with the mystery of the last au pair and the side effects of whatever pill she last popped, Jamie careens toward an ending twist that will have you flipping back through the pages to discover exactly how you’ve been led astray.
Check the WRL catalog for Tighter.