Frome, Chicken House, 2013, 273p
When Rachel Ward visited my school for World Book Day, I was excited to learn that she had a new novel on the way. I had loved Numbers, the series about a girl who could see the dates of people's death when she looked into their eyes. It was dark, brave and dramatic, and The Drowning is more of the same excellent teenage literature.
Carl Adams is fished out of lake, with little memory regarding how he got there. He is told that his brother died, it was an accident, but Rob's ghost still seems to follow him around. There was a girl there, too - Carl struggles to remember who she was. But slowly, he starts to piece together the events of that day, with the ghost of his dead brother watching over his shoulder.
This novel is a lot more than a ghost story. At it's core, it is about grief, about how "sometimes the dead don't go quietly". Everyone deals with grief differently: his mother turns to alcohol, whilst Carl seems to be going mad. Carl is haunted by the unknown - he cannot work out what happened on the day his brother died, and doesn't know who is responsible. Did he kill his own brother?
It makes for an incredibly dark Gothic novel. Water becomes a symbol of fear - it caused the death of Rob, and it's presence produces terror in Carl. It's a psychological thriller, playing on the uncertainty that Carl and the reader share. The first few chapters are confusing and disorientating, creating a feeling of horror that haunts the reader. It is fast-pace and addictive - Rachel Ward is confidently controlling where this story is going, and you cannot help but follow. My expectations were high, and she has impressed.