Tighter by Adele Griffin
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Pub. Date: May 10th, 2011
Age Level: 14+
Source: For review from author.
Synopsis via Goodreads
When 17-year-old Jamie arrives on the idyllic New England island of Little Bly to work as a summer au pair, she is stunned to learn of the horror that precedes her. Seeking the truth surrounding a young couple's tragic deaths, Jamie discovers that she herself looks shockingly like the dead girl—and that she has a disturbing ability to sense the two ghosts. Why is Jamie's connection to the couple so intense? What really happened last summer at Little Bly? As the secrets of the house wrap tighter and tighter around her, Jamie must navigate the increasingly blurred divide between the worlds of the living and the dead.
Brilliantly plotted, with startling twists, here is a thrilling page-turner from the award-winning Adele Griffin.
First off, for those who weren't already aware, Tighter is a modern retelling of The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. I read The Turn of the Screw a few years back and while it had it's merits, it fell a little flat for me. I don't remember a great deal about it but I could still see the similarities between it and Tighter. The difference? I thoroughly enjoyed Tighter and found it eerie and suspenseful, something I didn't feel I adequately received from The Turn of the Screw until towards the very end. I normally try to avoid comparing books but I couldn't help myself with this one.
Full of spunk and wry humor, Jamie made for a great protagonist that I could root for and relate to. After arriving at Little Bly, it doesn't take Jamie long to get drawn into the mystery surrounding the deaths of her predecessor, Jessie, and her boyfriend, Pete, especially considering Jaime's uncanny resemblance to Jessie. Jamie is understandably curious and her intense desire to comprehend what had happened was tangible and transcended the pages into myself. Her insecurities were realistic and avoided being over done to the point of annoyance. While I know that some people were, I was never bothered by Jamie's pill addiction and, in fact, I felt it added both to the story and to Jaime's character. Isa, though a bit strange, was absolutely darling and I couldn't help but love her. Milo was annoying, slightly creepy, and arrogant though he did surprise me by his occasional depth of thought and I found him to be a captivating character. Sebastian was a character I could have seen myself falling in love with had he played a bigger role in the overall story as I found myself wanting more of him. Mrs. Hubbard, Emory, Aidan, Noogie, and others formed the rest of the cast of distinct, well-crafted supporting characters. I have to say, Griffin managed to neatly, and impressively, compact a significant quantity of characters into Tighter's brief length of only 216 pages while still allowing them all to contribute.
Tighter starts out at, what I'd like to consider, a casual pace. Griffin takes her time establishing the story and setting without allowing any of the scenes to drag or become boring. Everything learned was necessarily so and the foundation was deftly laid in a way that managed to be both entertaining and informative. As I'm dropped chilling, intriguing hints concerning what is going on at the mysterious Skylark, the plot gradually begins to quicken and become even more suspenseful, with my anticipation building and building, until the story reaches it's dramatic climax. A couple of aspects were slightly predictable but there were also plenty of twists to keep me satisfied. I also found myself falling in love with the actual setting of Little Bly, which is no surprise seeing as I'm a total sucker for New England ghost/horror stories.
Griffin's writing style did a wonderful job of resonating that spooky, foreboding ambiance throughout the story, particularly in the descriptions of the damage done throughout the manor. My only qualms with the writing were the occasional phrases uttered that felt unrealistic for a seventeen-year-old, such as 'gave me a fright',and how Mrs. Hubbard's dialogue was written the same way she talks, with a lisp. These things were far from being a major issue but they did take getting accustomed to.
I wasn't entirely sure what to expect as far as the ending went, so I was going to be at least relatively surprised no matter how Griffin decided to tie things up. That being said, the ending was shocking and it definitely left me with questions but in a thought-provoking manner, versus an unfulfilling one.
Adele Griffin skillfully delivers a haunting and compelling Gothic tale through her newest YA novel, Tighter. Her talent as a writer is evident and I think this is a story that will appeal to many, especially those like me who prefer a more subtle, goose-pimply kind of scary compared to some of the I-wouldn't-dare-fall-asleep-right-now-for-fear-of-nightmares, paranoia-inducing horror novels out there. I can definitely see myself reading Tighter again in the future and I look forward to reading more of Griffin's work.
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