Page Count 320
Publication date July 2020/ Publisher Penguin
Lola Nox is the daughter of a celebrated horror filmmaker – she thinks nothing can scare her.
But when her father is brutally attacked in their New York apartment, she’s swiftly packed off to live with a grandmother she’s never met in Harrow Lake, the eerie town where her father’s most iconic horror movie was shot. The locals are weirdly obsessed with the film that put their town on the map – and then there are strange disappearances, which the police seem determined to explain away.
And there’s someone – or something – stalking her every move.
The more Lola discovers about the town, the more terrifying it becomes. Because Lola’s got secrets of her own. And if she can’t find a way out of Harrow Lake, they might just be the death of her . . .
Harrow Lake throws the reader straight into the action with the brutal attack of Lola’s father and her subsequent trip to stay with her estranged maternal grandmother.
I really enjoyed the backstory to the Nox family. As a lover of horror movies it was fascinating to read from the point of view of Lola, the daughter of a famous horror movie mogul.
Harrow Lake is both Lola’s estranged mother’s hometown and the scene of her fathers first big hit movie The NightJar- one that gained cult status and kept the poverty stricken town on the map.
In Harrow Lake they still live like its the 1920s which gave the novel even creepier vibes. I could envision it as both a regular town and a horror movie set all at once.
Mister Jitters the monster of town folklore didn’t entirely make sense to me. I found the setting scarier than the myth itself.
Dark caves, landslides and unnavigable forests in the night made my spine tingle, but Mister Jitters himself left me unfazed. Perhaps it was in the name?
There were some great atmospheric additions such as the Bone Tree and the noises but the folklore felt ungrounded.
I had guessed the origin of Mister Jitters quite early on and it made even less sense to me that an entire town would somehow come to live in that shadow.
But, Harrow Lake is a fun read never the less. The unending reference to bugs made me twitchy and many of the town residents including Lola’s grandmother had a strange malevolence about them that I appreciated.
I most enjoyed the intertwining of Lola’s story versus her parents movie but felt the addition of Mary Ann unnecessary.
At times Harrow Lake feels like sub plots are hitched together, as if Ellis couldn’t choose from several great ideas and settled on pieces of each. In fact one of them is left completely unresolved!
I was also a little disappointed to find the constant use of Lola’s nightmares as an avenue to inject fear into the reader. There’s nothing more frustrating than building all that tension to snatch it all away when the character wakes up.
Lola herself was an excellent MC, I know a lot of readers found the overuse of the word ‘optimal’ irritating, but personally I found it added a sort of mania and anxiety to her character and believe the capitalisation of Optimal whenever it was used is designed to enforce that.
I found her sarcasm and quick wit to be laugh out loud funny at times.
Overall it was a great way to pass an afternoon, there are some wonderfully unique ideas in Harrow Lake and I would definitely recommend to fans of YA and thriller.
Those who also like their horror as I do may be more inclined to find flaws, just don’t take this one too seriously.