Welcome to Harrow Lake.
Someone’s expecting you.
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 then there are strange disappearances, which the police seem determined to explain away.
And there’s someone – or something – stalking her every move.
The more Lola 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 . . .
Firstly, the characters. Well, the main character. I found Lola Nox to be interesting and engaging right from the start. A girl with a rich, famous father trying to keep her out of the spotlight, who seems to crave some sort of attention. She writes out her secrets, and hides them, something she was told to do by her mother.
Lola is clearly still suffering from her mother’s disappearance. Years before, her mother left her and her father, and since then, Nolan Nox has been very controlling over Lola’s life, which she puts down to his fear of losing her, too. I cannot imagine how difficult it is for a character like Lola, who has to deal with her mother abandoning her as a child, then being sent to live with her grandmother – if temporarily – while her father is in hospital.
Lola’s conflicted feelings – about both her parents – come through really well. She wants to be with her dad, wants to be there to see he’s okay, but can’t even get through to him, and she’s dimly aware he’s done a lot to hold her back. She views her visit to Harrow Lake as an opportunity to get to know both her parents better, but she resists wearing her mother’s old clothes, instead picking out the costumes of the character she played in Nolan’s most popular film, filmed at Harrow Lake.
But as Lola explores the town, she starts to uncover something else, something dark and dangerous. From a new friend she learns the story of ‘Mr Jitters’, an entity believed to be haunting the town. She explores the old fairground, where she discovers a mural from the film, her mother’s image destroyed. Lola is determined to find out exactly what is going on, driving her to some places she perhaps shouldn’t go.
Harrow Lake is YA Horror at its finest. There are trappings of YA – growing friendships, a possible love interest, a young woman trying to really find her place in the world – executed really well, alongside some wonderfully creepy horror moments. Mr Jitters is a terrifying entity. Lola’s discoveries deepen the town’s mysteries, and everything about Harrow Lake, including the people, is designed to put – and keep – the reader on edge.
As the mystery deepens, the number of unanswered questions increases, and Ellis really keeps the reader engaged without giving too much away, or making it feel like there is too much going on. It’s easy to see the town through Lola’s eyes, easy to follow her around and really picture the locations Ellis delves into. And it’s easy to connect with Lola, to really identify with her and want to see her emerge from this.
Throughout, Lola is confused and uncertain, trying to make sense of what different people want from her. and what she wants from life. Does her father want her home, or in Harrow Lake? Does her grandmother want her to replace her own missing daughter, and does the cute boy actually want to help Lola, or does he have other motivations?
Basically, I really enjoyed this book. It had some great, creepy horror moments, a fantastic cast of characters, and a thrilling, engaging plot that’ll definitely keep readers on their toes. It’s fast-paced without getting confusing, and I can easily imagine this being a really good gateway book to get teenager readers into horror.
Kat Ellis lives in North Wales with her husband and their two cats. When she isn’t writing, she spends her time watching every horror movie under the sun and exploring the picturesque views and creepy ruins of the Welsh countryside.