Rachel Ward became one of my favorite YA authors when I read her Num8ers trilogy (Num8ers, The Cha0s, and 1nf1n1ty) – a creepy paranormal story with an original, riveting premise. So, when I saw she had a new stand-alone novel, The Drowning, published in 2014, I got a copy. I finally found time to read this spooky, suspenseful ghost story, just in time for Halloween!
The story opens as fifteen-year old Carl is lying in the rain watching his older brother, Rob, being zipped into a body bag. Carl is loaded into an ambulance, along with the girl who was with the brothers. All of them were in the lake, but other than what he sees in front of him, Carl can’t remember anything. He has no idea how his brother drowned, what they were all doing at the lake, or even who the girl is. He doesn’t even remember who he is.
Carl is sent home from the hospital with his mum, but he doesn’t remember her or his home, either. The doctors tell him he’d been hit on the head and that his memory will come back, but right now, everything is very confusing. Small bits of memory begin to come back to him in fragments, when he sees the room he shared with his brother, when his mother slaps him in the head, and when he has nightmares from the lake.
Besides pieces of memory slowing coming back, though, Carl also hears his dead brother whispering in his head. At first he wants to believe, as his mother suggests, that it’s the normal grieving process. Soon, though, Rob is taunting him (as he often did in real life) and saying things that make Carl very nervous. Then, Carl begins to actually see his brother – a watery, transparent outline that won’t leave him alone.
Carl is being haunted by his brother, who wants him to do terrible things. He feels desperate to remember exactly what happened at the lake. He finds out who the girl is, but that only complicates things further. Throughout the story, the sky is dark and cloudy and rain falls in record-setting torrents. All that water just reminds Carl of the events at the lake and his brother’s drowning. How will he ever get rid of his brother and make these terrifying – and possibly dangerous – visitations end?
As with Ward’s earlier novels, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book (especially this past week!). The mysteries of the drowning and Carl’s brother slowly come to light, as Carl’s memory returns and the tension builds to an exciting climax. The dark, stormy atmosphere of the story mirror its building suspense and add to the sinister tone. This gripping, thrilling story kept me riveted, as I finished reading it in record time. I can’t wait to see what Rachel Ward comes up with next!
266 pages, Chicken House (an imprint of Scholastic)