Title: Harrow Lake
Author: Kat Ellis
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Date of publication: 9 July 2020
Genre: YA thriller
Number of pages: 320
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 there are strange disappearances, which the police seem determined to explain away.
And there’s someone – or something – stalking Lola’s every move.
The more she 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…
I don’t read many YA novels. Why? I am guilty of having misconceptions about the genre coupled with the belief I just wouldn’t connect to the characters. I think the term Young Adult scares me a little. Am I young enough? Too old to find a way to enjoy the stories? Will the plots involve what matters to me?
This review is the proof that branching out can be an extraordinary thing. When I heard about Harrow Lake, I was seduced by the title. My eyes scanned the blurb and I spotted details I look for in novels – a small town, and a stalker. So I put my doubts about YA in the trash and agreed to take part in the blog tour. I don’t regret it!
I can’t say I warmed to Lola when I began reading. With little knowledge about her and her family, I found her behavior quite similar to so many teens in search of freedom. But when she finds her father attacked in their apartment and is sent to the home of a grandmother she doesn’t know, in a small town where her mother grew up and her filmmaker dad hit the jackpot with a famous movie, I was rattled. All happened very fast and my only choice being to follow Lola’s narrative, I opened to her.
Lola doesn’t know much. Her dad is in hospital. Her mother left her years ago. Quickly, it becomes clear she’s her dad’s whole world and is required to live under strict rules. Her father’s presence is clear, despite them being miles away, and it made me feel quite uncomfortable. I recognized signs of a troubled relationship, some subtle, other less subtle, but always shown and not told, which was something I really appreciated from the author’s writing.
Harrow Lake. The name itself is mesmerizing. Years ago, Lola’s father filmed a movie there and it became huge. So huge that the little town feels stuck in time. Upon Lola’s arrival, I felt the atmosphere of the place. It took me a few pages to understand there was something strange going on and was comforted in my idea by the inhabitants. Old-fashioned clothes, a claustrophobic feeling, the unease of untold threats at every corner. I would not choose Harrow Lake for a vacation! Lola isn’t happy to be there, but her urge to rush back to her old life soon has to fight with her will to discover more about her mother. After all, Harrow Lake, even if she doesn’t feel safe, it is her mom’s hometown, the place that made her famous and changed her life… So why not follow the ghostly trail she left?
Harrow Lake is a real psychological horror novel. The fears in Lola’s head resonate all around town and the place seems to draw her in, closing in on her. Few books manage to spook me, but this one did! I couldn’t believe it. Kat Ellis has done a great job playing on my nerves. I knew something was off, but couldn’t figure out where it came from. Was it Lola’s tainted view on the setting, or was it the town itself? I can’t give away much about the plot but there’s a kind of magic that pulls you in and before you know it, you HAVE to keep reading.
The town people were weird, and that might be the side of the novel I liked the least. Some felt completely out of it, but my focus was on Lola, and I glossed over the little bits that would have had me suspend my disbelief.
Overall, Harrow Lake is a creepy and spooky YA novel digging deep into the heart of its protagonists.
Thank you to The Write Reads for inviting me to be part of this blog tour and for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Kat Ellis is the author of YA novels PURGE, BLACKFIN SKY, and BREAKER, and the novella THE TWINS OF BLACKFIN in the THREE STRIKES collection. Her next book, HARROW LAKE, will be published in the summer of 2020.
You’ll usually find Kat up to no good on Twitter, trekking through ruins and cemeteries with her camera, or watching scary films with her husband.