Friday, January 28, 2011

Book Review: Tighter by Adele Griffin

Tighter, by Adele Griffin
Release Date: May 10, 2011
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers

Pages: 216
Received: ARC from Goodreads/Author
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 

Author's Page
Amazon Page 

Goodreads Page

Mark you calendars!
Tighter comes out May 10, 2011


Reeling from a breakup with one of her teachers and self-medicating for an old back injury, Jamie seizes the opportunity to work as an au pair over the summer, hoping the change of scenery will offer her a diversion from her troubles. Little Bly, the house nestled on a New England island, does offer a diversion. As Jamie becomes acquainted with the residents of the island, she finds herself pulled deeper into the mysterious deaths of two teenagers the previous summer. Further intriguing is the strange resemblance between Jamie and the girl who died and petty acts of vandalism scattered throughout the house, seemingly committed from beyond the grave. Jamie becomes increasingly convinced that the spirits of the teens are not at rest, but the residents seem to be conspiring to keep Little Bly’s secrets buried. 


Billed as a loose retelling of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, Tighter at first follows the original plot closely and then spirals into Adele’s unique creation. The transition is flawless, using the setup and features of the original story as a backdrop and then spinning the reader into a story that is both completely different and yet still fully compliments The Turn of the Screw. It is not necessary to have read or even liked The Turn of the Screw to enjoy Tighter.  The story updates and pays homage to the original, but it is a fully developed story that stands perfectly well on its own. 

I have read The Turn of the Screw, so I had a ton of fun picking out all of the little references and ways Adele wove in the original with her new story. I am curious to hear a review of this book from the perspective of someone who has not read The Turn of the Screw

As with the original, I did not like the main character of this book. Jamie has an attitude, is addicted to prescription pills, and makes terrible choices. She isn’t someone I would want to be friends with at all. If I wasn’t familiar with the original, I think I might have been turned off to the story because of my inability to connect with Jamie. Usually, if I can’t connect with the main character (or even like them), then I stop reading the book.

Having read the original, however, I knew that you’re not supposed to necessarily like the main character, so please, please, please don’t let Jamie turn you off to this book! The beauty of James’ book is not just that it is a chilling ghost story, but that it is also a fantastic study of an unreliable narrator. Both the ghostly happenings and the unreliable narrator are retained in Tighter, leaving the reader constantly questioning whether the events of the story are a result of a supernatural haunting, Jamie’s state of mind, or a frightening mix of both.

Even though I didn’t like Jamie as a person, she was a fantastic narrator. Jamie’s voice is strong and clear. Her haziness and confusion as a result of the pills she is constantly popping amplifies the reader’s uncertainty and sense of peril, but the plot never feels convoluted or difficult to follow. The pieces of the mystery come together at a good pace, but only half of these pieces are apparent clues.

There are clues laid from the very first page, but these are the type of clues that you don’t realize are important until the climax of the story. At that point everything clicks into place and I couldn’t help but immediately flip back and read whole passages of the book again with this new knowledge. I kept gleefully exclaiming, “Ah ha! I see it now!” realizing how, even having read the original, Adele’s subtle tweaks added an entirely new feature that completely surprised me and left me delighted. These features make this book an excellent candidate for rereading. I think I would discover and notice a ton of little hints and clues I missed on my first reading.

After the startling climax the story winds down and I felt content with the way Adele chose to end the book. But then…just when I thought the events were resolved one way a final bit of information on the very last page turns events around again and all of my suspicions and questions I thought were resolved came flooding back again. This was excellent! I didn’t realize the ending could get better, but then it did! I loved the way the author chose to end this book and I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better resolution.

The only reason I rated this four instead of five stars is because I would have liked a little more. This may be a bit unfair, but because the author’s writing was so enthralling and because her plot twists were so exciting I found myself wanting more. I wish the ghostly parts had been expanded just a little bit more. They were scary (and some really were downright chilling), but I wanted them to be just a little bit scarier, or more of them. I wish the secrets Jamie uncovered about the deaths were just a little…juicier and developed just a little bit more.  

Adele is a National Book Award finalist and it is easy to see why. Tightly plotted, well paced, and beautifully written, Tighter pulled me in from the very beginning and, days after having finished, it still hasn’t let me go. I read this one for my Gothic Reading Challenge, and I highly recommend it to readers looking for a good ghost story, a contemporary read, a classic retelling, or a creepy Gothic tale. This is the first book I have read by Adele Griffin, but it won’t be the last.
 Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

This book satisfies the following challenges: 
Morbid Romantica Challenge
Gothic Reading Challenge
Off the Shelf Challenge
Most Awaited YA Releases

Looking for another creepy Gothic story? You might like: 
The House of Dead Maids
Spotlight: Gothic Fiction, part II


  1. Great review! The cover makes it look a little creepy, but it sounds like a good book :)

  2. Hmmm. Not sure about this one. A pill-popping MC I may not like much? Still, if you say it's good, I totally trust your opinion, so maybe I should give it a try.

  3. I have a weird association with this cover - don't ask, LOL - so I was a bit turned off from the book just based on it, but your review has definitely piqued my curiosity!

  4. This looks awesome! :)
    I'm hopefully going to get a chance to read The Turn of The Screw before this, and it just looks so interesting! I love me some ghost stories!
    Great review! :D

  5. Cleo, It is creepy and great! I hope you enjoy it

    Logan, I can't really say much without giving a whole bunch away, but the MC has to be that way for the story and twists to work. I think it's well worth reading!

    Stephanie, haha, well, I find the cover incredibly creepy. I'm glad I piqued your curiosity. :)

    Maggie, It is awesome! The Turn of the Screw is really short (about 100 pages or less) and it was a lot of fun reading this book having read the original first, but it's not necessary at all.

  6. Oh, I love books that turn out to have endings even better than you could have thought. I'm looking forward to reading this one now but how scary is it since I tend to avoid ghost stories because I'm a big scaredy-cat.

  7. While I'm not totally sure I would like this book, your review was stellar! Shari

  8. I really love the sound of this one. I love anything gothic. I actually first came by this book on your blog and immediately added it to my wishlist. Great review! Can't wait to read it!

  9. A Canadian Girl, Well, I’m a complete scaredy-cat myself, but I was able to get through this one. It was creepy enough to be good and interesting, but no so much that I needed to sleep with the lights on. :P

    Shari, Thank you!

    Leanna, I think you’ll love this book then! It’s the type of story you really need to read to the end to get the full impact. Sooo, sooo good.

  10. I usually get turned off by unlikeable protagonists as well, so I'll have to keep your comments in mind if I read this book. It sounds like this one has quite a few good twists in the plot which I love.

  11. Please do keep it in mind. I don't think I can say anything more without giving stuff away. If you like twists, then I think you'll love this book. Twisty to the very end!

  12. Wow! This one does sound good! And I'd probably want more too.

    I haven't read The Turn of the Screw, never even heard of it. *hangs head in shame*

    I admit having a hard time sticking with a story if I don't like the main character but something about Jaime seems to draw you in. I guess it is the fact that it leaves you guessing as to whether the ghosts are there or just in her fragile mind.

    Thanks for this review, Smalls. I will definitely be checking out this book!

  13. Missie, Aw, you should so read The Turn of the Screw! It’s really short (I think maybe 100 pages). But you don’t need to have read it or know anything about it in order to enjoy Tighter. The mystery is totally worth putting up with Jaime’s weirdness. Just trust me, she needs to be like she is. I hope you enjoy Tighter!

  14. Wow! This sounds really awesome! I have not read The Turn of the Screw so this would be all new to me. I will definitely be checking it out though!

  15. Two Readers Reviews, It was sooo good. I’ve read some reviews from people who haven’t read The Turn of the Screw and it seems like they enjoy it just as much as I did. I hope you do too!

  16. Hi may I know whats the theme for this book?

  17. Hm, it's been a while since I read it and I hadn't really read it with a focus on looking for the themes. Sorry! It's a retelling of The Turn of the Screw, so I imagine many of the themes are the same.


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