ACT 2020, SCENE 532,400,741. Enter CHARLIE, hair windswept and glasses askew, with the crazed, hollow-eyed expression of someone who has just moved house (and country) during a global pandemic. In their trembling, housepaint-stained hands is a beautiful proof copy of GIRL IN THE WALLS, by A. J. Gnuse (coming May 2021!)
Hi all!! Finally, I have time to write a review for this book, which my lovely agent was kind enough to send me a copy of last month! I actually finished reading it a couple of weeks ago, but for Reasons (largely related to the aforementioned house move during a global pandemic) I haven’t been able to sit down and put my thoughts on it to paper just yet. Until now!
At first glance, this book is about a young girl named Elise who (for spoilery reasons) ekes out a life living within the hidden spaces of an old Louisiana house. Unbeknownst to the house’s current occupants—a family called the Masons—she sleeps in the attic, crawls through the walls, creeps out while they’re at work to sneak dried cereal from the pantry and watch TV. I say ‘at first glance’ because really, it became quickly apparent to me that this book is about much more than that. It’s about secrets and denial, fear and paranoia; it’s about the terror of being discovered, of being seen; and the terror of discovering something, in turn, that you didn’t expect to find.
I love the way that Elise’s secret life feels both metaphorical and literal all at once. As many people do in response to traumatic experience, she’s chosen to retreat back into the safety of her own life, pretending that she doesn’t exist—because if she doesn’t exist, after all, she doesn’t have to hurt. I also really enjoyed the atmosphere of this book, ominous from the start yet peaceful and bittersweet at the same time, working in perfect concert with the sleepy, eccentric Louisiana house in which the story is set. (Sleepy, that is, until the nail-biting finish, when all is turned upside down and it becomes harder and harder for Elise to hide…!)
So keep an eye out for this book come May 2021! Only one word of warning—if your house is the creaky sort, you may find yourself looking over your shoulder more than usual, listening out for girls in the walls…