The special ones by Em Bailey

cover image

Hardy Grant Egmont, 2016. ISBN 9781742976280
(Age: 13+) Highly recommended, Thriller, Cults, Imprisonment, Kidnapping, Religious fanaticism, Power. Esther is confined by the verandahs of her house, not allowed to step into the yard outside. That is Harry's space, a place where he tends the crops, chops the wood, kills the animals for meat. The younger Special, Felicity is allowed to go with him to collect the eggs. But when another girl is kidnapped to become the new Lucille, the fourth in their household, then cracks begin to appear. Esther can barely remember her life before, but knows there is no escape from the life she now leads. They are subjected to verification nights when they are measured by the photograph on the wall to see if they all still fit the image the man wants. They have nights where they confess to sins and then are punished, every nights they go into a room with a bank of computers to chat online with their followers. And above all is their book of behaviour, the codes by which they must live.
A seriously creepy read, the isolated farmhouse where they live is basic in the extreme. They are watched and monitored at all times, Esther and Lucille make all their clothes, they live off all that Harry and Felicity can produce. Esther bakes and salts and puts food away in the larder.
Narrated by Esther, she is very protective of the younger Felicity and tries hard to keep her within the image the man wants, but the new Lucille creates problems for her. One day Harry is told that he is to be renewed. He must leave, to be replaced by a new Harry but Esther fears he will be killed.
After reading, Shift, I expected this to be a different read, and was certainly not disappointed. The cult which confines the four is all powerful, dictating every aspect of their spartan lives. The first half is narrated by Esther, but once she is sent out to be renewed, the narration is split between her and the man who controls them allowing us into his crazy mind.
This is an unnerving thriller, revealing the nature of a psychopath who believes the voices he hears in his head and is persuasive enough to get Esther to follow him in the first place. Now that she is out and pursued by the media, she is a problem he must deal with. But she thinks the others sent for renewal must be alive and so keeps looking for them despite her family's inability to understand, the police avoiding her and the media derision. She is a strong character with whom readers will identify, eagerly following her journey to the gripping end.
Fran Knight