Review: The Girls Are Never Gone

As soon as I heard about this incredible concept and read that intriguing blurb, I knew I needed The Girls Are Never Gone by Sarah Glenn Marsh in my life. I’m really excited to share all my thoughts today.

This review originally appeared on The Nerd Daily.

Dare Chase doesn’t believe in ghosts.

Privately, she’s a supernatural skeptic. But publicly, she’s keeping her doubts to herself—because she’s the voice of Attachments, her brand-new paranormal investigation podcast, and she needs her ghost-loving listeners to tune in.

That’s what brings her to Arrington Estate. Thirty years ago, teenager Atheleen Bell drowned in Arrington’s lake, and legend says her spirit haunts the estate. Dare’s more interested in the suspicious circumstances surrounding her death—circumstances that she believes point to a living culprit, not the supernatural. Still, she’s vowed to keep an open mind as she investigates, even if she’s pretty sure what she’ll find.

But Arrington is full of surprises. Good ones like Quinn, the cute daughter of the house’s new owner. And baffling ones like the threatening messages left scrawled in paint on Quinn’s walls, the ghastly face that appears behind Dare’s own in the mirror, and the unnatural current that nearly drowns their friend Holly in the lake. As Dare is drawn deeper into the mysteries of Arrington, she’ll have to rethink the boundaries of what is possible. Because if something is lurking in the lake…it might not be willing to let her go

Publication Date: 2nd September

TW: drowning, death, family death

Goodreads | Waterstones

My Thoughts:

The Girls Are Never Gone captures those whispers in the dark and that chilling feeling in your bones. It is the perfect read for the times as the nights grow darker and the temperature drops. 

Right away, you’re hooked by the atmospheric and menacing, atmospheric opening. It clearly and effectively sets up the claustrophobic small town feel and the central mystery of what exactly happened that night. From there on, you are fully ensnared by Sarah Glenn Marsh’s exquisite writing. The whole way through you have this looming sense of dread hovering over proceedings. The tension seeps into your skin and the scares grow and grow. Very rarely have I been truly terrified by a book but this one pulled it off with one particular jump scare that was so vividly imagined. 

The Girls Are Never Gone is probably best described as The Haunting of Bly Manor meets Sadie with a dash of The Conjuring. This unnerving plot meshes really well with the interludes of the podcast. It gives it that multimedia feel and carries you deeper into the story. Dare’s voice is so entrancing and seeing her edited version of events through the podcast is fascinating. The reminder of the wider world listening in adds this meta layer to the story that reminds you of the community standing behind our characters. It also allows that supernatural influence to creep in, but in a way that builds naturally and feels incredibly believable. 

Dare is an excellent protagonist for this, as you follow her journey from sceptic to feeling that extra presence. In that way, she really allows the audience in and makes the story build in an incredibly believable way. I loved her as a protagonist with her intelligence, drive and passion. You can tell that she wants to do the best by both her listeners and her friends, but she is also having to untangle all her preconceptions around the supernatural. Likewise, the other central characters felt well-developed and three-dimensional. They truly felt like Dare’s found family for the summer and you end up loving them all. 

Great horror novels allow your imagination to create your own nightmares and Sarah Glenn Marsh seems to intuitively understand this. A lot of the book preys upon the darker recesses of your mind, as you create your own figures lurking in the night. There’s these subtle touches of menace that only grow stronger the more you read on. This is a genuinely creepy and unnerving book. The horror slowly grows and then it almost explodes onto you with horrifying moments that feel so real. It’s incredibly immersive, precisely because you’ve been drawn in by the atmosphere and the incredible characters. 

I absolutely loved the representation in this story. Dare has Type I diabetes and the way this is interwoven in the story is fantastic. It is just normalised, but at the same time, Dare is given the space to explore her disability and how it affects her everyday life. It is a realistic depiction of living with a chronic illness, highlighting both how normalised accessibility and representation should be, but also the difficulties that comes with managing your chronic condition or disability. For many people, it’s a constant balance where you’re always walking that tightrope. The central romance is also achingly gorgeous. It’s unabashedly sapphic and fills your heart with butterflies. I liked how the romance grows so naturally and lovingly. While they have these spectacular moments, they also have these beautiful quieter moments that make your heart glow. There’s shades to their romance and this adds this realism. You can practically feel the flutters and it’s so wonderful to watch. 

The human touches behind the supernatural are possibly the most unnerving aspect, with aspects of jealously and an inclination towards violence. This endless cycle of new playthings for the creature to devour and feed upon has this abysmal sense of inevitability to it. The fact that they’re also always young teenage girls uncannily reflects real life examples of exploitation and violent crime. Similarly, without giving anything away, I actually liked the ambiguity and touch of despair in the ending. It is definitely not a straightforwardly happy ending with uncertainty but there is still a glimmer of hope in there. 

The Girls Are Never Gone is the sapphic horror story you need if you’re looking to fill that Bly Manor shaped hole in your heart.

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