Believathon Atmospheric or Creepy book- Twister by Juliette Forrest

Earlier in the summer I read Juliette’s second book The True Colours Of Coral Glen which was incredibly atmospheric and creepy and I knew when choosing my prompts for Believathon that Juliette’s writing would be a great fit for the Atmospheric or Creepy prompt.

It also fits well into the Magic prompt, and could well fit into set in the past as it has a ‘edge of the past’ timeless feel where you can’t quite tell if it happened in living memory or 100 years ago.

Trigger warnings: Fire, violently physical bullying & abusive behaviour towards both children and adults {Spoiler but possibly necessary: The dog dies}

Twister by Juliette Forrest
Cover illustrations by Alexis Snell

Twister will do anything to get her Pa back and the sunshine in her Ma’s heart, even use a magical necklace called Wah that pulls souls of all living things out of the air to use as magical powers whether it be wearing the pelt of a wolf, the thunder of a rainforest or the ferocity of a lion,

However, Wah could bring about her death as whilst it will lead her to her hearts desire it will also call out to a deathless child murderer White Eye who wants to use Wah to come to live and slaughter all the children of Culleroy

The heat made the Misty Peak Mountains shimmer in the distance. Bird song floated up from the valley. I smelled the breath of the forest: all sticky pine and baked herbs and wild flowers and hot grass

I found this incredibly clever for its use of childhood narrator in dialect. Twister speaks like a child and also brings a sense of character and place. I may be being presumptuous but from vocabulary, syntax and flora/fauna I’m feeling Deep South US especially for its allusions and resonance with the Southern Gothic Genre.

It certainly fits the Southern Gothic with the idea of deeply flawed or eccentric characters and the immersion or use of a supernatural or ‘hoodoo’ context and also reflects themes of rundown settings, sinister events and a sense of alienation.

This all fits Twister well as our titular heroine is born during a tornado and she is said to have a wild magic. Her idyllic bucolic childhood on a farm turns to isolation and alienation when her father disappears and her mother turns inwards with grief leading Twister to the attentions of the local bully, himself the victim of an abusive father. And then there’s The Woodsy witchcraft that undulates between a Wild Witch of the woods and that beyond explaining of a man hungry to murder, especially children, a bogeyman made real.

His pa must have scared him senseless with the tales ‘bout White Eye coming to steal his soul if he didn’t behave.

I really enjoyed the way that Juliette plays with the very real bogeyman fears of childhood, both here with White-Eye and again in The True Colours of Coral Glen which is a modern tale set in Scotland. Children genuinely are scared of such concepts and many children’s books twist this into a tangible real villain for their child protagonists to defeat, but Juliette goes to the heart of it and doesn’t flinch from embracing the whispers, the fear of the dark, the supernatural features of bogeymen. In some ways this is so much more powerful because it validates that fear and yet the child still looks their demon in the eye and faces them down. This is the same with the collapse of Twister’s family, the worst is happening and she must deal with it.

The juxtaposition of gorgeous childhood innocence in Twister’s mouth against the horror of what she faces lightens the darkness. With a full sensory immersion and achingly sweet interpretations of typical sayings such as ‘my heart just about broke into four’ rather than two we really get a sense of Twister’s indomitable spirit and honey sweetness.

Most wind chimes were made from wood our tin or glass or metal. This one was made from bones. My guts flipped the same way waffles do on a griddle.

Overall, whilst themes are shared between Juliette’s books they are unique in themselves and deliciously atmospheric and creepy, pushing to the boundaries of the comfort zone of middle grade in an incredible way that both holds hands in comfort yet helps children to confront their deepest fears by acknowledging rather than veiling or reframing them into a safer context.

Twister by Juliette Forrest is published by Scholastic

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