James Spencer is hardly the typical troubled youth who ends up at Whisperwood School for Boys. Instead of hating the strict schedules and tight oversight by staff, James blossoms, quickly making friends, indulging in his love of writing, and contemplating the merits of sneaking love poems to the elusive and aloof William Esher.
The rumours about William’s sexuality and opium reliance are prime gossip material amongst the third years…rumours that only further pique James’ curiosity to uncover what William is really like beneath all that emotional armor. And, when the normally collected William stumbles in one night, shaken and ranting of ghosts, James is the only one who believes him.
James himself has heard the nails dragging down his bedroom door and the sobs echoing in the halls at night. He knows others have, too, even if no one will admit it. The staff refuses to entertain such ridiculous tales, and punishment awaits anyone who brings it up.
Their fervent denial and the disappearance of students only furthers James’ determination to find out what secrets Whisperwood is hiding…especially if it prevents William and himself from becoming the next victims.
This is at once a super sweet story of young love, and at the same time a very gripping ghost story! Full of mystery and hidden pain, with an unknown danger seeming to lurk around every suitably dark corner of the haunted, forbidding school where our young protagonists find themselves.
The setting of the book is left a little vague, an English boarding school, presumably somewhere in the 19th century and clues are strewn about with care and a joy for to reader to pick up on: carriages abound, there’s talk of laudanum and opium dens, corsets for men that have luckily gone out of fashion, snippets of “contemporary” poetry by Elizabeth Barret-Browning, mentions of Harrow and Eton…
James and William are both wonderful characters, but James especially is my favourite. He is so dogged in his pursuit of William, so optimistic and unapologetically himself, even after everything he’s gone through. I loved the back and forth between the two boys, even more so when they use poetry to flirt with each other. Brilliantly done! A true joy to read!
I loved that the authors stayed true to the spirit of the times. Prejudices and lack of knowledge/understanding regarding certain issues abound, making life and love for these boys so much harder. The characters don’t take on “surprisingly modern” attitudes as a quick fix.
I can’t explain better than that without giving away too much.
The language they use, the words they don’t speak… it all adds to the atmosphere.
There is a constant tension running throughout the book and the reader can never be at ease… We are left to wonder what is happening, the same as James and William. Is there really something that goes bump into the night? Who can they trust? Who is the villain in this story?
The secondary characters are (mostly) wonderful and they’re very well-rounded and interesting in their own right. I can’t wait to return to this world and see what else might lie in store.
I loved this book! Can’t say enough good things about it!
Number of stars out of 5: 5