cover image Under This Red Rock

Under This Red Rock

Mindy McGinnis. HarperCollins/Tegen, $19.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-0632-3041-5

Via a horror-tinged psychological thriller, McGinnis (A Long Stretch of Bad Days) uses the lens of a whip-smart teen from a family with a history of mental illness to sensitively explore relevant themes. After gay 16-year-old Neely Hawtrey’s mother dies in a car accident, her older brother Lance dies by suicide, and her father abandons her, Neely and her three secret monsters—a girl who lives under her bed, a strange man who inhabits her closet, and an annoying presence called Shitbird Man—move in with her grandparents in East Independence, Ohio. Neely is soon hired at a local cavern tourist attraction, where she crushes on her hot, tall, blond coworker Mila Minter, an English major at Ohio State University. Neely loves her job; hanging out with Mila and the fact that her monsters can’t follow her underground allow Neely to briefly forget about her problems and her past. She’s even started developing better coping mechanisms to manage her hallucinations and has befriended other cavern workers—but then a terrible crime occurs, destroying her carefully constructed reality. Neely is an acerbic protagonist whom readers will love and empathize with as she endeavors to regain control of her own life. Striking a careful balance of dry humor and occasionally harrowing depictions of Neely’s mental health challenges, McGinnis delivers a compassionate and gripping read. Main characters read as white. Ages 14–up. Agent: Adriann Ranta Zurhellen, Folio Literary. (Mar.)