September 25, 2023

Novel Lives

Book Publicity, Reviews, Author Interviews, and Discussion Posts by Susan Crosby

Harrow Lake By Kat Ellis Is Uneven, More Psychological Thriller Than Horror – Write Reads Ultimate Blog Tour Stop

Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis succeeds in some areas but misses the mark in the most essential parts.

Harrow Lake By Kat Ellis

Welcome to my stop on the Write Reads Ultimate Blog Tour for Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis! Please note that Harrow Lake is released this month, May 2020, in the UK! However, it doesn’t release in the United States until August 25, 2020. Keep an eye out for it during these two release dates, worldwide! Harrow Lake also features two completely different covers, which you can note in my featured image, below! The cover in the top left-hand corner of the image is the cover for the United States. The cover utilized in the tour banner (created by our wonderful Noly @ The Artsy Reader— both an angel of a person and an amazing site- please go check her out) is the cover for Harrow Lake, across the pond! Hope that helps.

Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis Review

Thank you to the Write Reads for organizing this blog tour and RandomHouse for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Summary: A can’t-put-down, creepy thriller about the daughter of a horror film director who’s not afraid of anything—until she gets to Harrow Lake.

Things I know about Harrow Lake:
1. It’s where my father shot his most disturbing slasher film.
2. There’s something not right about this town.
Lola Nox is the daughter of a celebrated horror filmmaker—she thinks nothing can scare her. But when her father is brutally attacked in their New York apartment, she’s quickly packed off to live with a grandmother she’s never met in Harrow Lake, the eerie town where her father’s most iconic horror movie was shot. The locals are weirdly obsessed with the film that put their town on the map—and there are strange disappearances, which the police seem determined to explain away. And there’s someone—or something—stalking her every move. The more Lola discovers about the town, the more terrifying it becomes. Because Lola’s got secrets of her own. And if she can’t find a way out of Harrow Lake, they might just be the death of her.

The Good

Kat Ellis gets something dead right (no pun intended). Lola and her interactions with others are spot on. The more I read the more I find that I am a lover of the absurd and the snarky. Disclaimer, as I’ve said before, I have a very dark and twisted sense of humor. What I find acceptable humor in certain situations, may not be for others. In fact, others might find not only inappropriate but completely offensive. To me, everyone has different ways of coping and I completely understand developing a dark sense of humor/sarcasm as a defense mechanism. This is what I’ve done to deal with not just severe childhood trauma but other points of trauma.

For the more faint of heart there is also dead panned sarcasm between Lola and her grandmother. While looking for her missing suitcase, her mother’s arts and crafts disappear.

Lola: “Could the jitterbugs perhaps be in the same place you didn’t put my suitcase?”

Out of context, this may not quite hit the mark, but there are many pure sarcastic and more, very dark and twisted hysterical moments throughout Harrow Lake that I very much appreciated.

The gothic vibe of the town (not necessarily the town people, who were a bit cookie cutter) but the town itself, which often felt like a living, breathing character, was very well done.

There were, at times a good creepiness vibe. At times, because once you figure out what is going on that gets lost pretty quickly.

The Bad

Let me say this upfront. None of what I’m about to say is because Harrow Lake is a Young Adult novel. I’ve said everything below about Adult books in this category. In fact, I’ve said a lot of it, quite recently. I said it about both The Guest List and You Are Not Alone. The only difference is that Harrow Lake got a couple things right whereas the former two didn’t get ANYTHING right.

First off, in my opinion and to no fault of Kat Ellis or Harrow Lake, this book was labeled as the correct genre. It is not a horror book. It is a Psychological Thriller. There are few books that are clear cut in genres. Most blend through different genres. This is a clear-cut psychological thriller that doesn’t even bend into horror, in my opinion. Had I known that going in, I would have come out with a much different impression. I still would have had issues with it, but I would have had a more favorable view of it. There is no way this should have ever been put out as a horror book.

Next, Harrow book is highly predictable, with a lot of cookie cutter characters. I’m just going to leave it at that because of spoilers.

The Ugly

The whiteness factor. Ok, Lola even points out, herself that Harrow Lake is all white and how different it is coming from NYC. But it was like I almost felt Ellis purposefully put that there to let herself off the hook. So,no one could say anything to her. I’m not saying that every book has to have all the representation. I’ve read books that aren’t always diverse. Something just really bugged me out about how this was done. It was like it was purposefully done and pointed out for CYA.

Last, and this is my biggest and again, I’m going to keep this spoiler free. That means this is going to be vague. Otherwise, I’m going to have to do what I did with my review of the Guest List, where I had the second part with the spoilers, and I don’t think that is necessary. Here’s the thing.

There are A LOT of heavy themes that end up coming into play during Harrow Lake. That is great if they are done well. Many Young Adult and Adult Psychological Thrillers have a chance to address heavy themes and do them well. Those are the best ones. However, when it goes bad? It crashes and burns in huge ways. Harrow Lake crashes like the Titanic on this front. I’m sorry, but it does. It never ends up dealing with the fallout from it. The ending is just… like getting to the climax of a movie and someone pulls the plug.

Overall, it just misses too much and is way too uneven. And where it misses? It misses big.

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