Paranormal Young Adult
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Received for review via Teen Book Scene
A series of unfortunate events have caused Jamie's life to begin spiraling out of control. The combination of a broken heart and a physical injury have led to an addiction to prescription drugs, and in an effort to get Jamie interested in life again, her mother gets her a job as an au pair on the tiny island of Little Bly.
Though it's not ideal, Jamie enjoys spending time with Isa, at least until she begins to hear rumors that she bears a striking resemblance to Isa's former au pair Jessie. Turns out Jessie and her boyfriend Peter died in a plane crash the summer before, and Jamie realizes they haven't quite yet left Little Bly or Skylark house.
Jamie can sense Peter's presence and he's not the least bit restful. He enjoys disrupting and defiling the house, and Jamie decides to dig into his and Jessie's pasts to help figure out why the events of the previous summer happened the way they did, but in doing so opens herself up for ghostly scrutiny in return.
Tighter is one of those stories that creeps along, events unfolding with a deliberate slowness that causes our bodies to wind up and coil like a spring, just waiting for the moment when we'll be startled into sudden movement. For the duration of this tale we are deliciously tense–though our tenseness is strictly anticipatory rather than derived from a great deal of action or intensity–and we absorb every tiny detail about Jamie and Skylark in search of information that might ease our sense of foreboding. While Jamie's story is slow moving, it is never boring; instead we are kept on high alert as separate incidents and situations begin to fit together and paint a larger picture we are positively desperate to see in its entirety by the end.
Though many aspects of the story cause our exhalations to come in rapid succession and our muscles to ache from the strain of clenching them, there are a few small aspects that are a touch disappointing after all is revealed. For much of the book our attention is drawn to the physical similarities between previous au pair Jessie and current au pair Jamie, leading us to believe there is some significance in this detail or some link between the two young women that is perhaps contributory to Jamie's ability to see the spirits of both Jessie and Peter. However, when all is said and done we find their eerily similar appearance is mere coincidence and is unrelated to the greater picture. We spend so much time hearing about their looks and learning about Jessie as Jamie conducts her informal investigation that we're sure we must be in store for some shocking revelation only to have our sought-after connection between the two women fade to nothingness with the turn of the last few pages.
Tighter does end with a twist that causes us to mentally replay the entire story in an attempt to catch the moments that ought to have tipped us off as to the ending, but once our initial awe passes we realize this particular twist is something we've seen before. All the accumulated tension and anticipation of some disturbing ghostly encounter slowly drains from us rather than exploding outward with the force of our discovery, taking with it the last of our strength and leaving us feeling just a bit unsatisfied. Tighter is certainly a quick and entertaining read, we just can't help but want a more disquieting and memorable conclusion to a tale that's kept us taut with awareness and apprehension the entire time.