Book Review – Mina and the Undead

A friend of mine recommended this book by debut author Amy McCaw, and I pre-ordered it based on that; she’s never steered me wrong before on them so I trusted her, and was completely right to. It’s a tantalizing read that tiptoes the line between general young adult thriller and a blood drenched horror novel, all keeping a fine line and keeping all readers on edge as the tension builds consistently throughout. Here’s the synopsis:

New Orleans Fang Fest, 1995.
Mina’s having a summer to die for.

17-year-old Mina, from England, arrives in New Orleans to visit her estranged sister, Libby. After growing up in Whitby, the town that inspired Dracula, Mina loves nothing more than a creepy horror movie. She can’t wait to explore the city’s darkest secrets – vampire tours, seedy bars, spooky cemeteries, disturbing local myths…

And it gets even better when Mina lands a part-time job at a horror movie mansion and meets Jared, Libby’s gorgeous housemate, co-worker and fellow horror enthusiast.

But the perfect summer bliss is broken when, while exploring the mansion, Mina stumbles upon the body of a girl with puncture marks on her neck, clutching a lock of hair that suspiciously resembles Libby’s… Someone is replicating New Orleans’ most brutal supernatural killings. Mina must discover the truth and prove her sister’s innocence before she becomes the victim of another myth.

Firstly, this book is designed to look like a VHS tape, from the cover to the spine, and the grey edging of pages. It immediately submerges you back into 1995, and it was like childhood memories come to life, with moments full of hair crimping, black nail varnish, and Saved By The Bell references. It was great. Total throwback.

This book builds up tension levels from the very start, going from small moments of anxiety to utter terror throughout the pages. Where we start off uncertain about who the killer could be, we only become more sure than something is utterly, fundamentally wrong, leaving you unable to trust anyone other than Mina, and even then you question her judgement at times. It’s brilliant having a narrator who is trustworthy but who is also an imperfect human being, willing to admit her mistakes, and question her choices.

The cast of characters are varied and the little group of friends are all likeable in their own way, with an expanded group that all leave a selection of impressions, none of which help up predict the stunning conclusion the unfolds very quickly. It leaves you feeling a bit like you’ve been totally taken over by the situation and unable to process it for a while after.

Author Amy McCaw has created an unforgettable cast of characters that are going to stay with me for a long time yet, and I really can’t wait for her to write something else; she has a natural skill when it comes to creating environments and situations that will go on to compliment young adult thrillers for years to come.


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