Tighter by Adele Griffin
Release Date: May 10, 2011
Reading level: Young Adult
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.
-- from Goodreads.com
Tighter is a great little creepy re-imagining of Henry James's The Turn of the Screw. If you've read the original, don't worry, it won't spoil you for reading Tighter because, while some of the plot points are similar, this is a horse of an entirely different color. Jamie, who from the beginning has quite a few secrets from the reader, is unhappily being sent to a "toity" island to "summer" as an au pair for a young girl named Flora who's father is away on business. Jamie has suffered a recent heartbreak and hopes taking this job on the insistence of her mother, not to mention the handful of pills she grabs before she leaves home, that she will be able to overcome the memories and hurt before school starts in the fall. She's in for less than a relaxing summer when she begins to feel an unsettling presence in the house, Flora's smart alec brother Miles returns home after being kicked out of summer camp, and she learns the previous au pair, Jenny, died in a tragic accident with her boyfriend the previous summer.
The characters were all very colorful. From the very first page I had a good idea of who the narrator, Jamie, is and what her thoughts on life are. She is the most developed of the characters, which is natural since it's from her viewpoint that we see the rest of the characters. And we are privy to her innermost thoughts and feelings. The characters of the children, Flora & Miles, were really interesting to me because there was always this strange feeling that they might have multiple personalities. Something that was picked up by others around them and mentioned (not a flaw in the writing). I completely disliked Connie, the housekeeper, but I was supposed to and her ridiculous lisp only added to that dislike throughout the story. And what would a YA book be without a bit of a love/obsession triangle. Though this one is pretty unusual considering one of the guys is not exactly alive. Ms. Griffin took the base ideas of her characters from the original and really layered and re-worked them into a way that makes them very relevant and interesting for the YA reader.
There was very little in the way of plot; this story is very character driven. So what we get is a string of personal interactions between characters and the internal struggles of the narrator who strives to understand why she continues to be drawn to and into the drama of Jenny's life before her untimely death. There's an encroaching sense of claustrophobia as the book progresses which adds to the atmosphere of ghostly mysteries and possible pill-induced hallucinations. All of the elements of this book contrive to pull the reader directly into Jamie's head to experience every chilling moment along with her.
This is a delicious novella, well-written and well-charactered. I found little I disliked other than the author's device of writing out Connie's lisp in the dialogue which made it difficult to read sometimes. Well, that and what the mystery boiled down to in the end (which may or may not disappoint other readers but I saw it coming). Regardless of the ending, it was a fast, fun read that I recommend to anyone who enjoys a vague gothic ghost story feel to your summer paranormal books.