The Rust Maidens.Kiste, Gwendolyn (author).
Nov. 2018. 252p. JournalStone, paper, $17.95 (9781947654440).
First published October 15, 2018 (Booklist).
In the summer of 1980, Cleveland, OH the furture looked bleak especially if like Phoebe, you just graduated high school. Mills were closing, many were unemployed, and the lake was so polluted it could catch on fire. But to make matters worse, in Phoebe’s neighborhood young girls, many of them her friends, were turning into grotesquely beautiful beasts, attracting gawkers and straining already tenuous relationships. Phoebe is the readers’ guide into this strange world, recounting her tale on two timelines, 1980 and the present, allowing them to see Phoebe struggle with the events of that horrifying summer both as they happened and as she has been forced to grapple with her place in it all throughout her life. Award winning short story writer Kiste makes her novel debut with this dramatic and absorbing story, full of compelling contractions- it’s realistic yet supernatural, terrifying yet beautiful, infuriating yet redemptive. This is a tale of friendship, monsters, and growing up, a lyrical and character centered story filled with danger and horrible consequences following in the tradition of horror with a strong coming-of-age theme as seen most recently in Children of the Dark by Janz, Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Tremblay, or Hex by Heuvelt.
YA Statement: With a cast of teenage characters, a strong coming of age theme, and a 1980 setting, The Rust Maidens will appeal to teens who enjoy TV shows like Stranger Things and podcasts like Welcome to Nightvale as well as supernatural horror novels.Further Appeal: This book is lyrical and terrifyingly realistic. Seriously, the way Kiste writes the novel, her words draw you in, and even though you know that young women couldn't turn into these creatures, it feels so possible that the suspension of disbelief is easy. Then you are sucked in.
Phoebe's voice is compelling and sympathetic. If you like coming of age stories, especially with the being able to look back dual story line, this is an excellent choice.
Three Words That Describe This Book: unsettlingly beautiful, two time frames, atmospheric
Readalikes: I have 3 in the review above, which link to more options. But I also think the stories of Damien Angelica Walters and Kriti DeMeester are also an excellent choice. Kiste is a prolific story writer herself. All three of these women write lyrical and beautiful stories which are also terrifying. How they excel at balancing these contradictions are what make their works all a joy to read and experience.
Haven by Tom Deady is another coming of age horror novel with a similar feel like the books linked in the review.