This is exactly the kind of book I’d been craving!
I’m currently on a creepy-forest-and-low-key-horror reading kick lately, and I had preordered this ages ago (fun story 😂it took like 4 months to arrive despite preordering) so I was like NOW IS THE TIME. I ended up listening to the audiobook and it was so fantastically narrated. Sometimes heavy Southern accents are hard for me (an Australian) to understand, but this worked out! I absolutely sank into the story and it entirely stole my heart.
It’s so deeply about grief. I think the audiobook narrator enhanced this but…my heart broke several times over. Generational grief, suffering, self-torture, and secrets. It’s about a family whose pain runs layers deep, but their avoidance of it just poisons themselves. I kind of love books about dysfunctional families and their secrets, so this captivated me.
Shady Grove’s family falls apart when her step-father is murdered and her brother, Jesse, is jailed for it. She’s not even over her father’s death and his legacy of playing a magic fiddle that can raise ghosts haunts her. She wants the fiddle back. Even more so now, because she needs it to figure out who really killed her step-father so she can get her brother out of jail. She’s always winced at being seen as “white trailer trash” but her family is such a mess. Reclusive aunt. Dead father. Haunted ex-family home. Magic in their bones. Angry brother. A Shadow Man that haunts her sleep. I loved her absolute determination, but also her softness. She is a vulnerable girl keeping herself together through sheer grit. Music owns her soul — but not always in healthy ways.
THINGS I LOVED
- The music aspect! The haunted fiddle is amazing and creepy and all-consuming. Althooooough…Shady does start a bluegrass band with her friends and I 💀 cannot deal with country music. I will look passed this. 😪
- Big friend groups! It actually deals with toxic friendships (I do think Sarah was thoroughly toxic to Shady).
- Shady is bisexual!! She has a crush on Sarah (who is closed off and cold to her) and ends up also crushing on Cedar (who is a soft but smug cowboy and a real sweetheart).
- JESSEEEEEE. Okay to be absolutely honest, he’s my favourite character. He doesn’t have a lot of page-time, but he is obviously a huge catalyst to the story and the driving force behind Shady’s actions. His backstory BROKE me when it all comes out. He’s angry and stuffed with survivor’s guilt and he’s absolutely thoroughly alone 🥺I am in pieces for Jesse and this kid really deserves a hug. When he broke down crying near the end just….me too, son. (The way Shady was angry at him…no 😭)
- It was so emotional and it truly made me FEEL that.
- Loved that it had creepy magic and superstition but it was still rooted in our world. It’s not so much set IN a forest, but there’s a woods that plays a good part.
- Also loved little toddler Honey 🥺👌🏻
It’s a highly emotional story with a riveting murder mystery and ghosts with sharp teeth and anguished tears. It’s full of grief, but also healing. I totally loved the characters and I wanted nothing more than for Shady to face her past and find a way to face the future.
If I could have a fiddle made of Daddy’s bones, I’d play it. I’d learn all the secrets he kept.
Shady Grove inherited her father’s ability to call ghosts from the grave with his fiddle, but she also knows the fiddle’s tunes bring nothing but trouble and darkness.
But when her brother is accused of murder, she can’t let the dead keep their secrets.
In order to clear his name, she’s going to have to make those ghosts sing.
Family secrets, a gorgeously resonant LGBTQ love triangle, and just the right amount of creepiness make this young adult debut a haunting and hopeful story about facing everything that haunts us in the dark.