The Visitors, by Simon Sylvester (2014, 2015)

16 to Adult
The VisitorsHave a few days off and looking for something different? How about a spooky story set in the fog-limned Scottish isles? Few people visit the remote island of Bancree where 17-year-old Flora Cannon lives with her mother, stepdad and baby brother Jamie. The tapwater is dark with peat, and most folks work for the distillery, including Flo’s stepdad. Her boyfriend is a year older, and has just escaped Bancree for his first year at university. As expected, he dumps her forthwith. She’s not angry; she’s jealous. She has no friends her age on the island, and intends to slog through Grade 12 until she too can leave the island. Bancree is so small, she takes a ferry to attend high school (not unlike some Gulf Island kids here in B.C.). When Ailsa Dobie and her father John move into the isolated cottage on Dog Rock, Flo and Ailsa become fast friends. Flo is troubled, revulsed even, by her attraction to Ailsa’s father, but distracts herself with her term paper on Scottish folklore. She chooses the topic of selkies, seals who can take human form. The reader learns about the mythical creatures alongside Flo as she gathers information from her grandfather, the library and internet, and Izzy, the island beachcomber and a favourite with the local kids. Then a close family friend becomes the third islander to disappear in the past few months, followed soon by Lachlan Crane, the wayward son of the distillery owner. Flo knows what happened to Lachlan. Does she know more than she realizes about the others’ fates? I loved the moody setting for this novel, originally published in the U.K. and coming this week to North America. Debut author Sylvester blends several genres in this coming of age slash new adult story, including elements of fantasy and mystery and moments of gritty realism in the form of violent fights and a rape scene. Flora’s character is beautifully drawn, developing in skips and jumps from a moody teenager to an empowered and brave young woman. The end felt a bit rushed, but Sylvester skilfully leaves just the right questions unanswered, and delivers a satisfying first novel that will linger long after the last page. My thanks to Melville House, which is offering a trade paperback edition for North America readers, for an advance reading copy through Edelweiss in exchange for my honest review.
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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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