Monday, May 18, 2015

Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell

It started as a daft joke, a Ouija board phone app that Jay downloaded to show Sophie - but it didn't stay a joke for long.  The only person Sophie can think to contact through the Ouija board is her cousin Rebecca, who died when she was only seven years old.  Her memories have stirred because she is due to spend some time with her cousins while her parents are on holiday in San Francisco.  It seems such a harmless thing to do, she doesn't really believe in magic or spirits, but once you have made a connection to the otherside  it is not so easy to sever it.  Weird messages come through the board, messages that Sophie is convinced is a hoax.  As the session gets creepier and creepier, all the lights in the cafe plunge into darkness followed by a terrifying scream - and a promise that Jay will die that very night.

When Jay is found dead the next morning it seems like Sophie has woken up to a living nightmare, but it is about to get even worse.  Her parents want to cancel their holiday and stay with her, but Sophie insists on going to her cousins house sop her parents can enjoy their holiday and not loose the money they have already paid.  It seems as though the trip is destined to be a failure from the start with her arrival shrouded in rain and wind - and she receives a distinctly lukewarm reception from two of her cousins.  Cameron is cold and distant, reluctant to welcome Sophie into their home.  Her youngest cousin Lilias is flighty and nervous, with a phobia of bones that derails Sophie's welcome dinner, and who insists that Sophie has brought Rebecca home with her.  The only cousin who seems happy to see Sophie is Piper, who can't seem to be helpful or friendly enough.

The old house where the family lives was once the Dunvegan School for Girls and there are reminders all around the old building still, photographs and a display case full of Frozen Charlotte dolls that were once plastered into the walls of the basement.  The building has an spooky feeling, a sense that there is something stirring and whispering in the dark, a legion of Frozen Charlotte's that seem determined to come out to play - with needles, and knives, and blood.  The more time Sophie spends in the house, the more she realises that something is very wrong with the family, something simmering under the surface.  There is a darkness in the house, something twisted and rotten, and if Sophie can't figure out who to trust then she may never leave the island - alive.

I am not a big reader of horror stories, partly because they seem to focus on cheap thrills and gore to win over their readers, but there was something tantalising about the blurb for Frozen Charlotte that made me want to try it - and I am very glad I did.  There is incredible depth and thought behind Frozen Charlotte, a deftly woven story that blends together a believable back story with a mystery in the current time.  Sophie is an interesting character to connect with because her recent loss makes her vulnerable, but also because she is the focus of the manipulation and story.  I also find it interesting that Sophie means "wise" - maybe unintentional on the part of the author, but maybe not.

This is a well written and substantial book with plenty of creepy moments and little events that make you wonder if you really know what you think you know.  Interestingly Sophie's uncle, the one adult who is in the story on the island, seems distant and not involved - making it a story focused almost exclusively on the Frozen Charlotte dolls and the cousins.  I was hooked on this story from the start because it was well crafted and because there is always the little niggle that you are missing something important, or that you have something figured out only to find out you don't!  The book says it is not suitable for younger readers, but younger teens and 'tweens should be fine with it - just not children.  Hopefully there are more books from Alex Bell as this was a well crafted read that was impossible to put down once I picked it up.

If you like this story then try:
  • Tighter by Adele Griffin
  • The ghost of Sadie Kimber by Pat Moon
  • Asylum by Madeleine Roux
  • Anna dressed in blood by Kendare Blake
  • The unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
  • Thyla by Kate Gordon
  • The forest of hands and teeth by Carrie Ryan
  • Feral by Holly Schindler
  • Daughter of smoke and bone by Laini Taylor
  • Thirteen days to midnight by Patrick Carman
  • Burn bright by Marianne de Pierres

Reviewed by Brilla

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