By Darienne Stewart,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Dark, disturbing psychological thriller for mature teens.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Mature teens who like the paranormal will enjoy reading this book -- and may be interested in other thrills and chills. See our recommended lists for more ideas.
You can make an argument that there's a message here about the bond between sisters, left to fend for themselves when abandoned by adults, but it's a thin one. Cruelty and selfishness certainly go unrewarded in the end, but in the absence of any balancing message — no genuine kindness, friendship, or empathy — that point is almost irrelevant.
Positive Role Models
There are no good role models here, and almost no competent adult figures at all. Ruby and Chloe, ignored by their parents, have a strong sisterly bond, but it's based as much on control and fear as it is on love. Their mother is an alcoholic who spends much of her time in a bar. They have diffe rent fathers; Chloe flees to her father's home for a few years, and he tries to enforce some behavioral rules. When Chloe runs away back home with Ruby, no adult makes much of an effort to track her down.
Violence & Scariness
One teenager dies, perhaps at the hands of another, and another character is seriously injured in a car crash. Ruby exacts revenge by knowingly sending someone into a very risky situation that could kill him. There's little overt violence, but a threatening tone carries through the book. Even when characters seem close and affectionate, there's an underlying meanness, a conditional aspect to the relationships. There are no consequences, aside from social repercussions.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
There's lots of mature content: Ruby is portrayed as a sex object, and it's clear she's had many sexual partners. Every interaction between male and female characters is presented through a prism of sexual tension and power dynamics. Chloe loses her virginity and has sex with another character, who then rejects her. There are casual references to people hooking up, and the female protagonists are constantly aware of leering male onlookers.
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Strong language is peppered throughout, including "bitch," "s--t," "ho," "hell," and "f--k."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Drug and alcohol use is the focal point of every gathering of teens and young adults. Characters routinely drink and get high; Ruby drinks, though she doesn't want Chloe to smoke or drink. Characters overdose, drink to the point of vomiting, and go to school under the influence of drugs.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this is a dark, mature thriller best suited for well-grounded teens who enjoy tales with a paranormal touch. The characters inhabit a world devoid of responsible adults, and they seem to spend all their time drinking and eyeing each other warily (or greedily, when it comes to boys and girls). There is sex, drugs, swearing, and violence -- as well as menacing tone.
Where to Read
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What's the Story?
The entire town seems to fall under the spell of Chloe's beautiful older sister, Ruby. Chloe almost believes that Ruby can make anything happen just by willing it. When Ruby says Chloe can swim across the entire reservoir, Chloe gives it a try. But when she comes across the dead body of her classmate floating in the water, above the town flooded years ago to create the reservoir, she needs to get away from the trauma, from the reservoir, from her sister. Two years later, though, Ruby wants her back. And Ruby always gets what she wants … almost. To Chloe's shock, the girl she found floating, lifeless, is now alive. She starts to wonder what, exactly, Ruby is up to.
Is It Any Good?
It's nearly impossible to untangle what's real and what's imagined in this seductive thriller — just as Chloe has a hard time disentangling love from self-interest. Most of the characters are alternately cruel and callous, and humiliatingly cowed. Mature teens will appreciate this distorted world as the setting for a twisted tragedy. Lyrical writing, perfect details, and a teasing way with the truth make this an absorbing read, though the plot moves at a sometimes glacial pace and character motivation can be as murky as the menacing reservoir itself.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the mature material here. Are there any subjects or behaviors that would make a book off limits to teens? Who should decide what you get to read?
Sex is treated casually, with low expectations and disappointment. Do stories like this one promote casual sexual relationships -- or caution against them? For help with this conversation, take a look at our Sex and Media Tips.
- Author: Nova Ren Suma
- Genre: Horror
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Dutton Books
- Publication date: June 14, 2011
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 17
- Number of pages: 352
- Last updated: July 12, 2017
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Where to Read
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