cover image Impossible Causes

Impossible Causes

Julie Mayhew. Bloomsbury, $26 (432p) ISBN 978-1-63557-325-1

YA author Mayhew (The Big Lie) makes her adult debut with an atmospheric, if disjointed, thriller set on Lark, an isolated island off the English coast that’s home to St. Rita’s School. Teenager Viola Kendrick and her mother come to Lark to escape a family tragedy that has shattered them, arriving on the last boat before the fog descends that cuts off the island from the mainland for seven months. Viola spies on the three “Eldest Girls” from St. Rita’s, who spend their time in the hills performing rituals and fantasizing about sex. Unlike the black hair of the Lark natives, Viola’s vibrant red locks label her a “coycrock,” or intruder from the mainland. She longs to be accepted by the elders, and eventually is. Meanwhile, handsome Ben Hailey, St. Rita’s only male teacher, and Leah Cedars, the school’s head teacher, fall in love, creating petty jealousies that lead to murder. The characters’ indistinguishable sameness and awkward shifts between past and present will have readers scrambling to keep the story straight and understand whose voice is telling it. That said, Mayhew delivers some memorably creepy moments. Agent: Louise Lamont, LBA Books. (Nov.)