Friday, October 19, 2012

Turn of the Screw Retelling for Teens a Creepy Halloween Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When Jack Branch is offered an obscene amount of money to babysit two kids for a couple of months, the soon-to-be high school senior is elated.  Summer jobs aren't exactly plentiful in his city, especially not the kind that pay more than minimum wage.  So the situation is a little ... strange; the money makes it worth it.  If Jack can build up a nice, big nest egg, he'll be able to move out and join his girlfriend at college the minute he graduates high school.

The situation really is bizarre: Jack will be watching two orphans—siblings Flora (age 8) and Miles (age 10)—who live on a remote island with only their housekeeper.  Without t.v. or Internet access on the island, the kids need some entertainment.  Jack's it.  Their uncle hires him to organize sports and games for the kids so they can get some physical exercise while awaiting the arrival of Flora's full-time tutor and Miles' return to boarding school.  While it all seems straightforward enough, Jack's shocked at the kids' uncle's insistence that he not be contacted concerning the children no matter what.  It's only when Jack starts to experience the strangeness of Crackstone's Landing and its only occupants that he begins to understand why ...

The Turning, a new YA novel by Francine Prose, is a short, spine-tingler about things that go bump in the night (and sometimes during the day).  It's an eerie adaptation of Henry James' The Turn of the Screw, kind of a ghost story and psychological thriller, all rolled up into one.  Told through the letters Jack writes to his girlfriend, Sophie, the story traces his quest to understand what's happening on Crackstone's Landing as well as his growing confusion about his own sanity.  While I didn't love the book, it's definitely a creepy little read that'll be perfect for teens on the hunt for Halloween reads that are scary without being totally terrifying.

(Readalikes:  I should be able to think of lots of similar stories, but I'm coming up blank.  It does remind me a bit of And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie and of the movie The Shining, which is based on a Stephen King novel I haven't read yet.  Any other ideas?)

Grade:  B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  PG-13 for language (no F-bombs) and scary scenes

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of The Turning as well as a finished copy (which I donated to my local library) from the generous folks at HarperTeen.  Thank you!  

2 comments:

  1. This sounds great! I loved The Turn of the Screw and a YA retelling? So fun!

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  2. Scary without being terrifying sounds perfect! Hadn't heard of this one before. Thanks for the heads-up.

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