Her boyfriend was stabbed. He bled to death in her kitchen. Mallory was the one who stabbed him. But she can’t remember what happened that night. She only remembers the fear…
When Mallory’s parents send her away to a boarding school, she thinks she can escape the gossip and the threats. But someone, or something, has followed her. There’s the hand that touches her shoulder when she’s drifting off to sleep. A voice whispering her name. And everyone knows what happened. So when a pupil is found dead, Mallory’s name is on their lips.
Her past can be forgotten but it’s never gone. Can Mallory live with that?
By her own admission Mallory always runs away. So it is no surprise that she jumps at the opportunity to transfer to her father’s old school to escape the threatening stares and accusing whispers, which have surrounded her since the night she found herself covered in Brian’s blood, holding a kitchen knife. But her residence in Munroe, isn’t the fresh start she was hoping for. Not only has her reputation preceded her to the school where secrets are power, but also the stifling, vibrating, presence from the kitchen has followed her. As too has the distinctive green car of Brian’s disturbed mother.
Hysteria is told in first person past tense, from Mallory’s perspective. The bulk of the story focuses on Mallory as she attempts to settle in to her new school, reconnect with old family friend Reid, catch up with her schoolwork and avoid the attentions of creepy Jason and his cold, calculating cousin, Krista. All the while she is still coping with the issues that have followed her from home. This account is interspersed with a series of first person past tense flash backs that slowly, but satisfyingly unveiled the shocking events of the night that changed Mallory’s life forever.
I found that I was equally interested in Mallory’s situation at Munroe, wanting to get to the bottom of her bizarre experiences and her mysterious injuries, and wanting to know exactly what happened that fateful night that ended with Brian in a pool of blood in Mallory’s kitchen.
I loved the ambiguity of Mallory’s experiences, was she the victim of a deranged stalker, at the center of paranormal activity, cracking under the strain of trauma, or causing it herself?
Regardless of the cause of her distress, for me the most uncomfortable experience came from Mallory’s helplessness. Not only was she unable to escape from the situation, going against her natural instinct to flee, but the use of sleeping medication rendered her completely vulnerable at night.
The story of Brian’s death unfolded in tantalizing glimpses, which the author cleverly revealed out of sequence. On one hand this highlighted the realism of Mallory recounting and her memories, as different events would trigger her disclosure. On the other hand it enhanced the twists and turns of the plot as the author deliberately triggered feelings of self-doubt in Mallory and distrust in the reader.
I couldn’t help trying to form theories about what had happened and how this was continuing to affect Mallory. These theories changed and developed as different information became available. I found myself questioning Mallory’s character and her decisions. At best they were unwise, at worst evidence of her unraveling mental health. This led me to question her reliability as a narrator, adding to the general feeling of unease and tension, and enhancing my experience of this suspenseful book.
While the characterisation of Mallory and her friends Reid and Colleen were spot on, I felt that some of the secondary characters, particularly the more unpleasant ones, could have benefited with a little more fleshing out. However given the perspective of the book, it is not surprising that Mallory would have a deeper knowledge of her friends.
Verdict: This thriller captured me from the first sentence and kept me guessing until the final page.
Reviewed by Caroline