Genre: YA Horror
Queer Rep: Bi/Pan, Lesbian (maybe)
Warnings: Body Horror, graphic violence, gore, depictions of panic attacks
It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.
It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.
But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.
Lord of the Flies x Annihilation x Holy Shit Dude
I was still deep in my cave of F/F thirst when I decided to pick this up, drawn to the promise of horror with an all-female cast. The first paragraph enchanted me, and just like that I was in, diving headfirst into this haunting world full of nature that wasn’t quite natural, and girls with teeth and grit for days.
The story takes hold of you with intrigue, guiding you through the world in slow, measured steps. But then its got you by the throat, and if you’re anything like me, its difficult to step away. These girls exist in a living hell, fighting the Tox even as their futures remain uncertain. This is code for “bad shit can go down at any second” and it makes the book thrum with tension on every page. Rory’s style is perfectly suited for it—succinct, to the point, and all the more beautiful for it. She delivers each line as fact, unflinching. She also won favor to my heart, as there are no extraneous or unnecessary explanations. The reader can glean all they need from the turns of phrase, the dialogue, the girls’ body language. I couldn’t get enough.
The setting lives and breathes on the page. It’s wild and uncomfortable, and it wraps wholly around you as you as you read. It reminded me of The Last of Us (my favorite video game of all time, no big deal) in that you can feel the beauty and the dread of the environment as an ever-present thing.
I loved all the characters. They’re real, touchable people, and for better or worse (better), they’re flawed as hell. But they’re also relatable, and suffering, and resilient through things they shouldn’t be forced to bear. Their issues run deep—deeper than the Tox that consumes them.
This is another “holy shit book” for me. While it’s certainly not for everyone (anyone who can’t take body horror or gore should about-face) it can appeal to a much broader audience than just horror fans. The dynamic characters, changing stakes, and omnipresent atmosphere make it a stand-out title, and highlights Rory Power as a stand-out author.
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