Watch over me by Nina LaCour
Text Publishing, 2020. ISBN: 9781922330604.
(Age: 15+) Highly recommended. After being in the foster system since her mother abandoned her, 18-year-old Mila is looking forward to her job, teaching a young, home-schooled child on a farm. She is desperate for a home, a place where she can belong and hopes to find it with Terry and Julia, who own the farm and with the other people there, particularly Billy and Liz and her small charge, Lee. What she does not know when she accepts the job is that something strange is going on there and that it will bring back all the bad memories of her past.
An eerie combination of ghosts and ordinary life on a farm, LaCour manages to keep the suspense alive as Mila's story gradually unfolds. What are the ghostly figures that danced at night and why did everyone except for Lee and her wear gold bracelets and pendants? And what happened to the girl who used to teach Lee? Where has she gone? The story has a gothic feel and I almost felt that I was reading a novel set in the 1800's, until there would be a reference to driving to a market with flowers or using a phone.
In lyrical prose the author describes bit by bit the memories of the trauma that Mila had undergone when young, and the struggle that she is having with them resurfacing. Lee has also suffered trauma and Mila tries her best to help him, even as he sees ghosts too.
This is a disturbing read, with undertones of domestic violence, abandonment, guilt and grief, all part of Mila's struggle to accept her past and find a new home. Add a mix of ghosts, fear and mystery, and Watch over me will grip the reader until its powerful conclusion. Teacher's notes are available from the publisher.