I got a glimpse of this book from Hot Key last year, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting my chance to read the full thing ever since!
Book: Perfectly Preventable Deaths by Deidre Sullivan
Read before: The first chapter.
Ownership: Proof copy sent free of charge by Hot Key Books. All opinions my own.
As I mentioned in my review of Other Words for Smoke, if it’s got witches, it’s probably my jam, and this is no exception! A YA contemporary horror wouldn’t normally appeal to me, but I was captivated by the sampler I read, as the language is really interesting, and I’m always interested in witchcraft and sibling relationships. We follow Madeline and Catlin as they move to the small town of Ballyfrann after their mother remarries. Ballyfrann is a secretive, creepy place, and it doesn’t really help that Brian, their new stepfather, lives in an actual castle. As Madeline learns more about her innate talent for witchcraft and her sexuality, Catlin falls under the spell of a strange boy and becomes a shadow of her former self… and that’s without worrying about the missing girls and the animal corpses that keep showing up. It’s a tense read that somehow cranks up the creep factor while you aren’t looking, until you’re holding your breath as you desperately hope for Madeline and Catlin to come through alive.
I should note that this may be one to skip if you’re sensitive to violence against animals. There are detailed descriptions of mutilated bird and animal bodies, and there’s one scene of animal abuse that I really struggled to read. There’s a fair amount of human gore, too, especially towards the end, so be aware of that too – it’s not a particular issue for me (I don’t know why) but watch out if you don’t like blood!
That being said, I really enjoyed this. Madeline, our narrator, has a really compelling voice, and the book really captures the feeling of having a sibling in your teens: unconditional love and a fierce need to protect them, mixed with finding them incredibly annoying and wanting to be your own person. I also loved watching her realise that she liked girls – yep, it’s not just got witches, it’s got lesbians! The romance is pretty low-key, with the focus mostly being on the relationship between the twins, but it was great to see it included in such a casual, normal way. My other favourite characters were Oona, Madeline’s half-French crush, and Mamo, who is Brian’s great aunt and a witch (and who provides a lot of the common sense that Madeline is lacking). Mamo really grounds the story – I looked forward to her scenes, as she has some great dialogue, and she drives Madeline towards the things that will help her survive.
If you’re looking for a book that will completely immerse you in a spooky but realistic atmosphere, and one with very believable family interactions, then Perfectly Preventable Deaths is the read for you. It’s brilliant, and I hope Deirdre Sullivan writes more books in this vein! Four out of five cats!