An alternate cover edition for ISBN 9780241397046 can be found here.
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 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.
My first thought upon finishing Harrow Lake was that sometimes the truth is scarier than the nightmare.
When Lola Nox was 5-years old, her Mom ran off, abandoning Lola to be raised by her famous father, Nolan; a director of Horror movies.
The two have a strange, strained relationship. Lola often feels like a bird in a cage; a pet, for Nolan to trot out to impress industry people and the press.
As Lola becomes a teenager, she begins to battle more against Nolan's strict control over her life.
Their relationship is contentious to say the least, but when Lola returns to their NYC apartment one evening and finds Nolan bleeding out after a brutal attack, she is devastated.
She needs him to be okay. He's all she has. Adding to her stress, Larry, her Father's long-time assistant tells her it would be best for her to go stay with her maternal grandmother while Nolan is in the hospital recovering.
Lola can't believe it. She's never even met her Grandmother; she doesn't want to go stay with her, but Larry is insistent that it is what Nolan would want. And Nolan gets what he wants.
Thus, Lola is shipped off to Harrow Lake, her Mom, Lorelei's, hometown.
It also happens to be the town where her parents met. The town where her father shot his most iconic slasher film, Nightjar, in which her Mom played the starring role of Littlebird.
Immediately upon arrival at her Grandmother's, the story transforms in vibe into an atmospheric, suspenseful and eerie tale.
I was constantly on edge, waiting for the truth of Harrow Lake and Lorelei to be revealed.
This felt like a classic-80s Horror flick. It had one of my favorite tropes, with the main character ending up in a small town where everyone is acting strangely and they are stuck there.
The town lore and traditions were super messed up, but nobody but Lola seemed to notice. Even the friends she made there seemed untrustworthy.
But is Lola trustworthy? I was scratching my head the entire way, definitely anxious for the conclusion.
I liked this a lot. It was fun and had some pulse-pounding, creepy as heck moments. I can see that this story won't be for everyone, but I think die hard fans of this genre will have a good time with it.
I definitely plan to pick up more books by Kat Ellis! Well done.
This book was quite the surprise for me, as I didn’t expect myself to like it as much as I did. This book follows our main character, Lola, who is the daughter of a famous horror movie director. When her dad is attacked one night, Lola must return to live with her grandmother in Harrow Lake. Harrow Lake is the famous town where Lola’s dad most famous movie was filmed, and the town has its own scary stories and legends. While Lola is staying here she starts to uncover mysteries and discover truths to her mother’s disappearance. But will Mr. Jitters get Lola before it’s too late?
I do think it’s important to know that this book is more of a YA thriller/murder mystery novel, then it is a YA horror novel. I believe it’s more YA thriller with some creepy elements woven into the story. The most creepy element being Mr. Jitters (I could literally hear the clicking he makes while I was reading and it creeped me out!) I found this book to be a page turner and things were constantly happening and kept me invested. It also had so many horror movie tropes/niches that I love, such as a creepy town, town legends/scary stories. I also loved how the book ended, like literally loved the ending! The only thing that bothered me was the main character constantly saying the word “optimal” and referring to everything as being “optimal”. It got tedious and annoying at times.
I also did a spoiler free reading vlog on my YouTube channel, where I share more of my thoughts on this book. You can check that video out here: https://youtu.be/c0MKADw6mq8
CW: Abusive relationship, talks of cannibalism, Suicide, loss of a loved one
When her famous film director father is stabbed by a mysterious assailant, Lola Nox is sent to live with her grandmother in Harrow Lake - the setting for her father's most famous film, and her mother's home town. Harrow Lake is almost like a shrine to Lola's mother Loralei, the woman who abandoned her as a child, with memories and images everywhere. But there are secrets in town that Loralei was running from, and Lola's appearance in Harrow Lake may have awakened the monstrous Mister Jitters.
I'm unsure how to rate this, as I felt very compelled by the writing and thought the descriptions of the small town and creepy woods was very atmospheric and hit the right tone. However the characters felt very one dimensional. Lola is incredibly irritating at times, with constant internal conversations with herself about 'optimal' sentences and behaviour. Honestly, if she said 'optimal' once, she said it a hundred times. And it got more and more grating with every use. I also didn't find her particularly likeable. With a lot of the other characters she creates a barrier around herself, purposely being cruel and unkind to anyone trying to help her (such as Cora and Carter) which made her come across as very standoffish and cold. Her relationship with her father is...odd too, and I struggled to find anything redeemable.
Speaking of secondary characters- a lot of them feel superfluous to the plot. Especially Mary Ann. Her inclusion to the story just felt very odd to me, and unnecessary. It moved the story from just about logical to completely off the wall confusing. She added nothing to the plot, and I would have preferred more time spent developing characters such as Carter, Cora and Moira McCabe. They had potential.
The plot itself is also a little jarring. It starts off well, setting up an interesting small town horror mystery and then it just feels as though it doesn't really know what to do from here. Some scenes feel out of place and irrelevant (the movie reel scene in the museum for example), before going down a plot route that feels disconnected from the tone set up at the start. There are also too many unanswered questions, and those answers we do get feel unlikely and acquired in a highly unbelievable way.
This had promise. I just wish it had continued with the same atmospheric tone throughout, and had a tighter plot with more endearing characters. Disappointing.
Things I know about Harrow Lake: 1.It's where my father shot his most disturbing slasher film. 2.There's something not right about this town.
After Lola finds her famous father stabbed multiple times in their NYC apartment she is sent off to live with her grandmother in Harrow Lake while he recovers. This is the place where they filmed her fathers iconic horror movie, Nightjar, and her mother Lorelei starred as Little Bird within the film. Her mother left her and her father when Lola was just 5 years old so why is her father shipping her off to stay with a grandmother she doesn't even know?
Once she arrives she is told the tale of Mr. Jitters - of course it's not true just some locals trying to scare the new girl - until she hears the tap, tap, tapping herself.....
“He got trapped underground for a really long while, Then he fed on the dead and got a brand-new smile . . .”
This was a spine chilling tale that held my attention from the start and if creepy crawling things don't cause your teeth to chatter then I assure you Mr. Jitters will. 3.5 stars!
First of all, thank you to @penguinukbooks for the gifted copy! I had a bit of a mixed experience with this one, but can really see it appealing to certain readers.
Lola is the daughter of horror film director, Nolan Nox, whose most popular movie Nightjar was filmed in Harrow Lake - a town that relies heavily on the tourism that the movie brings. But this town has its own secrets, as well as it’s disturbing town legends...
This had a real 80s horror movie vibe, which obviously I dug a lot. A creepy town, a cult horror movie, urban legends... it’s ticking a lot of boxes! And some scenes were genuinely unsettling. Another bonus is that Harrow Lake is a certifiable page-turner, it might just keep you up beyond your bedtime 👀 The town’s urban legend, Mr Jitters, was also delightfully creepy.
Unfortunately, I found the protagonist Lola to be incredibly annoying. In fact, her annoyance levels were OPTIMAL. She quite literally commented on whether everything was “optimal” or not. The only thing that was optimal was my want to claw my eyeballs out every time I saw that word on the page.
I also struggled to keep up at times with what exactly was going on. And I’m still confused to be perfectly honest. Throw in the unreliable narrator and I’m questioning events even more! There were maybe too many different plot threads going on in here!
But it was still a fun read! I liked a lot of the ideas and imagery, it felt somewhat unique. I can see this appealing a lot to those who enjoy YA horror or thrillers. 3 stars.
Total honesty time - during the early pages of this book, I fully anticipated giving it two stars. I found the lead character Lola unengaging and some of the character choices were perplexing. Then something happened to me. I don't even know if I can pinpoint the exact moment in the book when it happened. It was like someone snapped a rubber band in my head and it just worked. I went from apathetic to LOVING it. I don't know if I can fully articulate why, but I'm sure going to try.
Lola Nox is the daughter of horror film auteur Nolan Nox. His film Nightjar is a modern day classic, celebrated religiously in its original filming location of Harrow Lake. The same small mining town was also the home of Lorelei, the captivating young star of Nightjar and Nolan's wife. And that's where teenage Lola finds herself after Nolan is hospitalized in critical condition. Forced to live with her odd grandmother she barely knows, and separated from everything familiar, Lola finds herself with no way to avoid facing a bone chattering terror.
And that's what saps the fear out of me, leaving me hollow. Because I'm in a stranger's bedroom, starting at a girl who can't possibly be here, and I have nowhere to run. No one to run to. Not in Harrow Lake.
There's a lot going on in Harrow Lake - both the town and the book. A town dependent on the horror tourism industry to stay afloat, traditions that skate just on the side of morbid, disturbing town legends, and secrets galore. There's a TON going on around every page.
Included in those goings on is Mr. Jitters, an ancient legend of a horrific monster that originated in the town's mining past. The Mr. Jitters parts are delightfully creepy, as is the surreal horror atmosphere - and the teeth! If you have a tooth phobia, I'd strongly advise caution heading into this.
I'd be lying if I said there were no loose ends. That's the chief thing that keeps this book from hitting the five star category. There are too many things that are set up well or introduced at one point, only to get little resolution. For the most part, I didn't hate it. Normally, if I see a plot hole, I will turn into the plot-hole-rage-monster. But in this particular example, I thought the characterization was enough to support where the plot lagged.
There's a lot of good character work to go around. I also loved the romantic elements. They're minor and not intrusive, but genuinely sweet.
Finally, let's talk about Lola.
There are large parts of her story arc that I'm ignoring here because I don't want to spoil everything, but the things that I can discuss connect over really well to the stuff that I can't. Just trust me. It took me a while to like Lola. She just seemed like such a nothing character. But the more I read, the more I became convinced that was on purpose. She's never been allowed to be anything or her own person really. She's almost personality-less by design. The only avenue for growth she's been allowed has been fiction, disappearing into books and movies. So when she's faced with an unavoidable reality that is both her past and present, she has to find her metaphorical voice.
There is SO much more about Lola, and Lorelei, and Mr. Jitters and the use of reflections and recurrence of the past that I could seriously talk about all day. Harrow Lake is a book with noticeable plot holes, but also a deep thematic well. Throw in some spooky stuff and family angst, and baby, you've got a stew going.
Thanks to Edelweiss and Kathy Dawson Books for the digital review copy! All quotations are taken from drc and may be changed in final publication.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>
The definition of a one-day read. An excellent, insidious take on the "there's something deeply wrong with this small town" trope. Following a mysterious crime, the sheltered daughter of a celebrity horror filmmaker lands in Harrow Lake, both her estranged actress mother's hometown and the setting for her father's most iconic film. What she finds there is a place touched by generations of tragedy and mythic horror, as well as as a time capsule for her father's film: its settings remain part of the town's creepy-idyllic landscape, and it's the site each summer of a festival celebrating the horror classic. I found this atmospheric layering of fact, fiction, and legend to be irresistible.
”You know, some people think this place changes people who stay too long, and not in a good way. Like there’s something in the water here that feeds the badness deep down inside a person and makes it grow stronger. Sometimes . . . I think there’s something to that.”
Harrow Lake legitimately gave me chills. I realize that’s the point of a horror story, but honestly I had a difficult time reading this story at night, and I definitely had to have my eyes on the door when I did choose to read after dark. Kat Ellis definitely weaves a story that makes it hard to tell what is real and what is not, and begs the question which horrors are worse, the real ones or the imagined ones?
Lola Nox is shipped off to Harrow Lake to stay with her grandmother after her dad is brutally stabbed and hospitalized. Harrow Lake is where her dad, Nolan, filmed a horror movie based on the town and where he met her mother, Lorelei, and made her a star. The town is creepy to say the least, and shrouded with a tragic past and seemingly stuck in the 20’s. She meets some people you don’t know whether or not she should trust, and she experiences some terrifying things that you’re not sure as the reader if you should believe. Saying anything more than that would spoil the book. So, I’ll leave it with saying that this book is creepy, but it’s also unputdownable. I found myself hesitant to continue because I was scared of what might happen, but also turning pages because I had to know. It probably doesn’t make sense, but this is a great read, and I am almost sad there wasn’t MORE story to keep me in the town if Harrow Lake.
AVAILABLE NOW!! *ARC provided by PenguinTeen through NetGalley
This YA horror novel definitely seems more interested in thrills than any kind of cohesive plot.
The story follows Lola, who is being sent to her mother's home town of Harrow Lake after her father is stabbed. Her mother disappeared years ago, and Lola is hoping that by getting to know Lorelei's hometown she might finally discover what happened. Unfortunately, something strange is going on in this town, and Lola's grandmother is less than helpful.
There is just so much to this story and, having finished it, half of it still doesn't make sense to me. It jumps between the mystery of Lola's missing mother, the strange mythical 'Mister Jitters' who seems to be stalking Lola, and then some random story about an imaginary friend. Somehow, we're supposed to believe they're all entwined but honestly, it's a complete mess.
Basically, I spent the entire novel convinced Lola just has a few screws loose.
There is also a Good Boy who is always handy when Lola is in trouble, and Town Secrets that complicate everything way more than is necessary.
Because there were so many elements to it, none of it was explored particularly well. There's no depth to anything, and one of the final answers seemed quite obvious to me from early on. But there are plenty of episodes of strange noises, faces in the dark, blackouts, menacing moments, etc. attempting to keep up the tension. Some of it was pretty creepy, I'll admit, but none of it ever really seemed to make sense.
This is a low-budget scare fest that relies more on scary moments than prolonged tension. There's not a lot of logic to any of it, and I didn't care for Lola at all.
That being said, Mister Jitters is 100% the stuff of nightmares.
I wouldn't recommend this to anyone looking for a strong, tense story, but the cheap thrills still make it an interesting read and evoke plenty of horror for the imaginative.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This review is spoiler-free.
Harrow Lake first burst onto my radar when the publishers were sending out the coolest looking proofs (seriously, check it out!) in the winter. I was immediately interested in the book as soon as I read the summary -- I’ve never been much of a horror reader but have been trying to dip my toe into the genre lately. Harrow Lake turned out to be a great stepping stone into horror for me with its creepy, atmospheric setting and things that go bump in the night.
Fact: I am a huge wimp, but absolutely love (certain) horror films. What I specifically love about these films is the tension that is teased out and cranked up as the story progresses. That’s exactly what I got from Harrow Lake -- the story is strange and tense from the first few pages, and only gets more intense as the pages turn. Ellis does a great job of setting up the fantastically weird atmosphere of the town of Harrow Lake, a town that has never let go of it's horror film fame (for better or worse), and that atmosphere is such a wonderful source of tension in the book. It has that perfect ‘small town creepiness’ that works so perfectly in the horror genre.
My favourite aspect of the book is the throwbacks to horror films throughout the book. Lola is the daughter of a cult filmmaker and the leading lady in his most famous film, Night Jar. Not only were there loads of references to the fictional Night Jar and other films, the book itself has a cinematic feeling. It feels like a perfectly adapted novelisation of a cult classic horror film. It gave me serious Night Film vibes, a book I enjoyed when I read it a few years ago. If you enjoyed Night Film or are a horror movie junkie, you absolutely have to pick up this book!
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Lola as a character. She’s not particularly likeable when she is first introduced, however her story -- and therefore her character -- gets much more complex and intriguing as more is revealed. I think my favourite thing about her is the fact that she doesn’t fit into the standard horror trope -- she experiences creepy and weird things happening around her and does not dismiss them as nothing. She’s sharp and on top of the situation, which I found incredibly refreshing. Lola is lost and confused, but incredibly proactive and I found that so satisfying.
Harrow Lake is a fantastic YA horror read that’s perfect for your summer reading. Not only is it a fast and pulse-pounding read, it’s immensely satisfying and feels like a breath of fresh air in the YA genre. If you’re looking for something that has a similar vibe to Night Film, or horror classics in general, you should absolutely pick up Harrow Lake.
Teenager Lola Nox is the daughter of horror filmmaker Nolan Nox. The book opens with Nolan being interviewed for Scream Screen Magazine. As the questions turn to the disappearance of Lola the interview cuts off and we are then sent back a year in time.
The year before Nolan is found stabbed in his apartment by Lola. Whilst Nolan is in the hospital there is no one else to look after Lola so she is sent to stay with the Grandmother she has never met before in Harrow Lake, the place where her father filmed his movie Nightjar, featuring Lola’s mum who disappeared when she Lola was just five years old.
Harrow Lake is a strange small town haunted by the past in which a landslide killed some of the residents. Rumour has it that one of the buried residents now wanders the town of a night time looking for victims to eat after he got the taste for flesh.
From the moment Lola arrives she has a weird feeling about the place and her Grandmother, who seems to be suffering from dementia and treats Lola like she is her missing daughter, even making her wear her clothes she has kept all these years. She also keeps seeing a girl following her and jitterbugs tapping and moving on their own. It’s all in her head though, isn’t it?
I’m not of YA age and I read a lot of psychological thrillers, suspense books, paranormal stories and as such whilst I thought this book was engaging and interesting I did not find it scary nor creepy in any sense, but I can see why those that are not used to these genres or those that are scared easily would given the nature of the plot. You need to remember this is a YA book so the horror aspect isn’t going to be what you would find in a Stephen King or Dean Koontz novel.
The book is based around Lola and her time in Harrow Lake. I can’t say she is a particularly nice character, in fact, she grated on me quite a lot with the way she viewed the world and her attitude which was down to the way she had been brought up, such as you shouldn’t say sorry or thank you to people nor show weakness.
The storyline itself is full-on and intriguing. As we know from the beginning that Lola disappears I was held captivated wanting to know what happens to her, does the creepy man get her? Is there something more sinister going on? I was eager to find out.
The ending I had mixed feelings about, partly because I was left wanting to know more about the past, but happy there was closure for Lola.
So... now that a week has passed since I finished this book, my memory of it is a little hazy (not a great sign, truth be told). But my general impression is that the author is a good writer, yet this is a poorly-written book. I struggled with the character work & plot development and because the narrative is a little too meandering, I found it hard to remain focused on the story while I was listening to the audiobook. But, let me explain...
The main character (Lola) became more compelling as the book continued on, but from the outset, Lola is introduced to readers as an unlikeable, apathetic, and sarcastic teenager with limited critical thinking skills (too harsh?). Needless to say, not an easy character to cheer for... and nor was her father, or the other secondary characters that featured infrequently in the narrative (e.g. Lola's father's assistant, Larry, and Lola's grandmother). Lola's father is clearly self-serving & domineering, as evidenced by Lola's internal monologue continuously making references to what her father might say in situations where he is not present (which was another aspect of Lola's character that I thought was odd... until I learned more). And not only were the characters unlikeable, but it was a wonder why they behaved in the way that they did. No clue why Lola's father & Larry would orchestrate Lola's trip to Harrow Lake, a place where Lola had never visited previously, to stay with a grandmother whom Lola had never met. Particularly since Lola's father had seemed to express some sense of desire to protect Lola up to that point in the plot (early on in the book, first couple chapters). And Lola herself seems to think this odd, and indeed, if you've finished the book, you'll also wonder why Lola's father would risk her discovering his secret in Harrow Lake (no spoilers, I promise). So essentially... the whole set-up for the plot is nonsensical. Furthermore... and maybe this is a shame on me for taking the book too seriously, because obviously this book is not a contemporary YA story rooted in realism, but... there is such poor parental supervision in this book. And genuinely, why was the author compelled to write every parent and/or adult as neglecting and/or a misogynistic, sexualizing pervert? My thought is that maybe the author was trying to suggest that EVERYBODY in Harrow Lake is a suspect... but every "red herring" that's introduced is dropped later on in the story. Even Lola is set up to be this unreliable narrator (I think... ? ... I don't know, but anyone who had read the book is welcome to share their thoughts with me regarding her imaginary friend), but the author doesn't invest much time into exploring any of these red herring, so again, why must all the adults in this town be unrealistically portrayed? Am I crazy for thinking this is strange? Strange and too heavy-handed.
Now, there are some enjoyable scenes in this story. The many creepy scenes are certainly a highlight. In fact, that's where this author seems to excel. For example, there is one scene that takes place at a film festival and during this scene, Lola observes the Harrow Lake townspeople eating from a cake shaped like a human body (Lola's mother's body). What a creepy & creative idea! I bet that if the author were of the mind to write a creepy short story collection, it would be magnificent. But a full length novel wherein plot inconsistencies and language redundancies are easily noticed (e.g. the author's significant overuse of the word 'optimal') ... well, let's just say this novel doesn't do a superb job of showcasing the author's strengths.
I assume this book was written with an homage to Night Film in mind. At this time (July of 2022), I haven’t finished reading Night Film yet, but I can certainly see some similarities in the synopses. Additionally, as I was reading Harrow Lake, I was seeing some similarities with Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects. So if those are books you enjoy and you're comfortable with the YA narrator, then you might enjoy this book. My advice would be to just not take this book too seriously and focus on the atmosphere.
I loved this book! Harrow Lake is mysterious and intriguing, and it has a couple delightfully spooky parts and storylines. There's a lot going on in this book, and while not everything was as clear cut as I had hoped, I still had a blast reading it.
My one annoyance was that the main character always says that everything is "Optimal". It's always capitalized, and it's CONSTANT. It was frustrating after a while, but I pretty much loved everything else.
You can always grab my attention with a book that has something to do with a horror movie - I think fans of The Remaking by Clay McLeod Chapman may also be into Harrow Lake. Definitely add this one to your TBR!
CW - sexual harassment, suicide, physical & sexual abuse
Y’all this is NOT a book to read at night with the lights off. This book is creepy AF, but worth every page!
Lola Nox is the teenager daughter of the renowned horror film maker Nolan Nox. The book opens with Nolan’s interview with Scream Screen Magazine. During the interview, questions are asked about the disappearance of Nolan’s daughter, which sends us back to last year when Lola discovered Nolan in a pool of his own blood following a gruesome stabbing.
Since Nolan required hospitalization to recover from his injuries, Lola is forced to stay with her maternal grandmother in Harrow Lake, Indiana. Lola has never even met her grandmother and all she knows of Harrow Lake is that it’s the place where Nolan filmed his famous film Nightjar, the one starring her mother Lorelei who disappeared when Lola was a small child.
As soon as Lola steps foot in Harrow Lake, it is obvious that something isn’t quite right in this strange, desolate mining town. The town thrives off of the horror tourism surrounding Nightjar, but there’s also the urban legend of Mr. Jitters; a horrifying monster that preys on those in Harrow Lake.
From start to finish, this book was a heart-pounding, fast-paced, wild ride that I enjoyed. Lola starts off pretty unlikable since she has the spoiled brat type of mentality. However, as more ominous things keep happening around her, she develops into a complex and intriguing character that I really enjoyed by the end.
The writing of this one is incredibly atmospheric. I found myself with goosebumps and looking over my shoulder on several occasions. I just want to say as well that the songs in this book were just as creepy as everything surrounding Mr. Jitters. It honestly reminded me a lot of the 1980s horror film classics. It still makes me shudder thinking about.
Overall, if you’re looking for a fast-paced engrossing read that will ruffle your feathers a bit then definitely check this one out!
Thank you to Dave at The Write Reads for my blog tour invite. That you to Penguin for providing a review copy through NetGalley. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.
Lola Nox is the daughter of a prolific horror filmmaker and scream queen. She resides solely with the former after her mother abandoned her family and disappeared from both the public eye and her family's radar, never to be seen again.
After a tragedy occurs, and Lola's father is incarcerated in the hospital, she finds herself shipped off to reside with her estranged grandmother. Harrow Lake is not merely her mother's childhood home, however. Harrow Lake was also the setting for her parent's masterpiece horror film and, years later, the last place her mother was seen alive.
This book was firmly placed inside the horror genre, with many a shadowed figure sighted, creaking floorboard heard, and spooky woodland setting visited, and yet it was the multiple mysteries that predominately gripped me. Lola's past, as well as those of her parents, remained hazy throughout and I tore through these pages in my eagerness to piece together the clues to their current disparate situations. I did guess many of the concluding twists but was still impressed with just how each revelation was slotted together.
Protagonist Lola was the classic spoilt yet lonely, wealthy teenager that I have read about multiple times before and still can't seem to get enough of. She was petulant, hard-headed, and snarky but this also ensured she was brilliantly sassy and wonderfully independent, too. Her journey throughout this book was interesting on both a physical and emotional level. As she learnt more about her present surroundings and familial history she also opened up more about her true self, and the lost and lonely little girl that was at the heart of her identity.
I did find myself with some queries remaining at the close of this but, for the most part, felt satisfied with the revelations and hopeful for Lola's future. Ellis is also definitely an author I am keen to read from again.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the author, Kat Ellis, and the publisher, Penguin, for this opportunity.
Wow. Upon delving into Harrow Lake I’m not ashamed to admit I didn’t fully appreciate what I was getting into. I thought it was going to be a plain sailing horror novel, a similar story but a story that was inevitable none the less. WRONG. I should have dug deeper just by one singular word used in the title – Harrow. This story has the capability to encase your heart in ice, its harrowing and captivating and pushes ice cold water through your veins. Be prepared for the author to give you a remarkably unique journey through your worst fears and leave you rocking in the corner by the closing of the final page.
A daughter of a film director, Nolan Nox. He came to fame with the release of his classic film, Nightjar. It catapulted Nolan, Lola’s mother and the creepy little town it was filmed in into crazy levels of fame. Reading the scenes based in this little town started to set off those blaringly loud red alerts sounding off in my head. Reading it was akin to looking through steamed up glasses – I can see shadows, but they quickly disappear from my peripheral vision. What was I experiencing?
Lola finds herself temporarily staying in this town after her father is injured. It certainly isn’t her first choice but as it is contained within her fathers will (he isn’t dead) and there isn’t anyone else to care for her, she has no choice. She is with her grandmother that she doesn’t know – no friendly faces, nothing familiar around her and things very quickly go awry. In this situation how can a young girl swim through the murky waters of a bone deep terror that will be unleashed on Lola in an unrelenting fashion. I loved this take on a child navigating fear as I usually indulge in adult horror. Harrow Lake consumed me, and I allowed it to swallow me whole. I wasn’t disappointed.
Harrow Lake indulges all your nightmares, thrown into a formula of every other horrific thing you can imagine and mixed together in order to stop your heart immediately. The town had my brain trying to fight against the scrambled feeling. It’s the kind of place you constantly have to look over your shoulder at. It is immersed in gothic legends and none as terrifying as Mr Jitters. I’m not spoiling that one for any potential readers!
Initially I had a bit of a hard time connecting with Lola. After a period of reflection, I came to the conclusion that it was due to how the author wrote her. She wasn’t really allowed to have a multi-faceted personality. Her father had a very domineering presence in her life and for whatever reason he had, it impacted how she presented herself to the world. No make-up, no phone and no laptop, and you can certainly expect her not to have social media. When she escaped that is when she more or less became a butterfly. She shed the chrysalis and became more.
Harrow Lake is a spectacular read. Kat Ellis has done a sublime job of creating an fully immersive imagery and invoking real emotion from her readers.
This was the perfect book to read for October! It was face pasted and engrossing with a very creepy atmosphere. Lola’s mother left when she was 5 years old leaving her to be raised by her father who was famous for horror movies. When he is found stabbed in their apartment his assistant sends Lola to visit her maternal grandmother in the small town where her mother grew up and where her father based his most famous horror movie. The town is perfectly creepy with lots of legends centering around Mr. Jitters who makes people disappear. As Lola is stuck in Harrow Lake she tries to learn more about her mother and in the process she realizes there is more than she could have guessed that is wrong with Harrow Lake.
This is a very solid 3.5 star read that blends creepy as hell atmosphere with a really cool concept and almost delivers a pretty great read. Kat Ellis turns the shivery tinglies up to 11 with a story about Lola Nox, the sheltered daughter of the famous horror director Nolan Nox. Lola's mom Lorelei disappeared years ago after starring in Nolan's most famous film "Night Jar". Now she's kept a virtual prisoner by a father who's obsessed with his work and expects her to sacrifice everything for his artistic vision.
When her father is brutally attacked and hospitalized Lola is sent to Harrow Lake, the site of the film and home of her mother. The town is preparing for their annual "Night Jar" festival and Lola finds herself dealing with weirdo locals and her very strange grandmother who spends a lot of time confusing Lola with her mother. It seems locals have been disappearing and some are even claiming that a local urban legend Mr. Jitters (think Slender Man) is responsible.
There are some great cinematic feeling thrills here as Lola explores the real versions of things that have only ever been movie scenes to her. Ellis is absolutely brilliant at setting and atmosphere. You really do feel it as Lola starts losing it a bit and has trouble differentiating between reality and dark fantasy.
The problem is, despite a very good reveal toward the end, its never super clear whats going on here. I was hoping for something that would ultimately link everything together and instead I got a few (solid) answers and a bunch of scariness with no resolution. Whether this is because certain things are parts of Lola's increasingly unstable imagination or there was an assumption on the writers part that solving the major mystery was enough I don't know, but it doesn't work.
Its a bummer because the ending is really solid, but I was just left with way to many questions to feel satisfied.
DNF at 51%. I don't usually DNF books when I'm halfway through them. But I just can't with this. My reasons why are as follows:
❐ A weird father/daughter relationship. She was always mentioning how close she is to her dad...but yet she calls him by his first name...I don't get it? ❐ Overuse of the word optimal...she used it at least twenty times in the first half of the book alone. ❐ Lastly...I just don't care how it's going to end nor do I have a clue what it was trying to accomplish.
If I were to write a blurb for this novel, it would be this: “Kat Ellis has created a richly-filled landscape of 80’s horror films and it lingers on your skin long after you finish the novel”. I adored this novel and as an avid fan of horror movies, I think this novel does justice for that genre as this novel has a lot of that good stuff in it eg. Diminutive town, estranged family, a character going insane and crazy town with ghastly notions. However, I do have some criticisms to make and I will write extensively on that matter later.
The writing style of this novel is atmospheric and gloomy with every shade of grey in it. The author has a way of incorporating words to craft a scene to make an innocuous scene seem ominous. In addition, I really enjoyed the references to horror films in this novel, it made my little horror heart leapt with happiness. Furthermore, I thought this novel was very well-paced as the author did not drag a scene out too long (which would make it boring) or cut short a scene during the horror scenes and that definitely made me adore the novel even more. However, the author uses the word – optimum – a lot and over time, it becomes repetitive and slightly annoying.
The atmosphere of the novel has a haunting inflexion to it and I thought that was the strongest point of the novel because it shows that the author has the ability to transport the readers to the head of the protagonist and allows the protagonist’s fears to be projected to the readers.
With aspects like the protagonist’s imaginary friend manifesting to life, a miniature-town which managed to make me feel claustrophobic, a town filled with superstitions and remarkably irrational people and most of all, Mr Jitters, it terrified me. However, I thought the horror aspect and the atmosphere faltered towards the end of the novel because it felt like the monster – Mr Jitters – did not add anything to the story but its main purpose is to terrorize the protagonist throughout the novel with literally no reason. BUT, I thought the people and their thinking and what they did were ten times more formidable than the actual monster of the novel so, those are the aspects that swooped in to save the ending of the novel for me.
The characters in this novel are multi-dimensional and complex. In this novel, there are Lola and Carter. Of course, there are more characters in this novel but we will only be focusing on both of these key characters in this review. Lola has a tendency to steal objects from strangers and write down her confessions on a paper and hide them in places where no one will look for but her. I thought the introduction to Lola was phenomenal and she has an amazing backbone to her character, for example, we learn in the novel that she adheres to her father like a leased dog with no freedom and as the story progresses, we see her character development and her flaws shining through the pages like a mirrorball and I adored it. Carter is a gentle person who assists people even though they insulted him with infuriating words. I thought his character arch was astonishing as well. Honestly, can Carter be my friend? He doesn’t even get mad when people insulted him.
Finally, there are several unexplained ideas that are thrust into the novel that make it seem like the author put them there for aesthetic purpose. For example, why does time slip away faster when Mr Jitters is around, why does Mr Jitters terrorize Lola since day one, is the urban legend about Mr Jitters real? The novel did provide some explanation to certain questions that I had posted but I do not think it is enough to justify Mr Jitters actions and his forces. Thus, I did not fancy the unexplained justifications of the novel.