If you are one to skip to the “shell rating” at the bottom before reading the review itself, I think it is only fair for me to include a bit of a disclaimer on this one. There is no gentle way to put this, no beating around the bush, no softening of the harsh reality. I am a chicken. I can’t watch scary movies; heck, I can’t even watch the commercials/trailers for scary movies. I hate being the last one awake at night, which works out well since my husband is a total night owl. And I can’t handle creepy books. I read James and the Giant Peach when I was in elementary school and woke up to nightmares about gargantuan bugs having a tea party in my bedroom. That is the extent of my wimpy-ness. So, while the shell-rating isn’t as high as one might hope for in a book review, keep in mind much of that designation has its foundation in the fact that for many years, I considered Roald Dahl’s writing to fall firmly in the horror genre.
The Unquiet is creepy. That is the first and most important thing a reader should know. The tale centers on Rinn, a teenage girl who has recently moved back to her mom’s hometown in middle America from a sunny southern California upbringing. The move is precipitated by the fact that her mother and adopted father are having some marital problems, stemming from the fact that Rinn, a bipolar teenager who has experienced psychotic episodes, accidentally started a fire that killed her grandmother. After the death of her grandmother, Rinn tries to kill herself. Once she is released from the care of the mental ward of a hospital, her parents decide some time apart and away would be best for everyone.
Rinn, while not thrilled with the move, soon makes friends at her new high school, which is odd in itself, as she was never the stereotypical social butterfly. But, not long after moving in, she learns that the school is haunted by a girl who died in the pool. That doesn’t necessarily set off any alarms for Rinn, but when she learns that the dead girl’s grandmother hanged herself in the bedroom Rinn now sleeps in, things start to spiral out of control.
The sleep Midwestern town is suddenly plagued by inexplicable accidents and deaths and Rinn is tied up in the middle of all of them. She and her new friends (who as characters are rather flat and underdeveloped, but that is a whole different discussion) seem to be the epicenter for the evil that emanates from the pool room.
Some will love the creep factor that this book offers. It kept me awake more than one night this last week. But, that isn’t all Garsee’s novel has to offer. Instead of just being your run of the mill horror story, it tackles the issue of mental illness in teenagers, a tough subject, but one that is a reality for some young adults. Watching Rinn struggle with her perceptions of reality and the side effects of her medication create a deeper story than if the author just stuck with a teenage ghost story. This element of the novel creates some redeeming moments that make me more apt to recommend it to students.
In the end, Jeannine Garsee’s The Unquiet, is a more than a bit spine-chilling, but that is the point, after all. If a few nights of curled up under the blankets covered in goose bumps and jumping at every creak of the house sounds like a good read to you, this is your book. While I understand the draw, it is not my cup of tea, so The Unquiet earns: