Life in the The Lookout - an old house that teeters on the edge of a cliff that would shine a light to provide ships safe passage - used to be great but now Faith’s life is crumbling all around her. Her father has disappeared. Her mother has lost her ‘Old Mum’ spark and spends all her time in bed. Her brother is obsessed with sea ghosts that may or may not be lurking in the cellar. And her home, The Lookout, has developed a huge crack in the back garden and could tumble into the sea at any moment.
When Faith is befriended by the mysterious Sam, she learns that there may be more fact than fiction to Noah's ghost stories. The house is hiding secrets and if Faith can uncover them then there may be a way to save it but can she find the answers she needs before everything comes crashing down…
In her debut read, Alex Cotter offers readers a thrilling mystery that weaves together a broken family with legends of the past to create a suspense-filled narrative where literally everything could come crumbling down at any moment. Delivering surprises, twists and turns, Cotter keeps the reader wanting more and frantically trying to join all of the pieces of the puzzle together before it is too late.
The House on the Edge is essentially a story of a child trying to save her family home in which main protagonist Faith finds herself in a race against time before The Lookout either falls into the sea or Uncle Art gets his hands on it and knocks it down for profitable gains. Whilst this is the driver for the narrative, there is so much more going on; a family in crisis with dramas unfolding all around, a web of lies that is creating more problems than it is solving and a troubled past history catching up with and influencing the present.
The story is told in first-person by Faith who does so at a relentless pace. You live and breathe every decision that she makes and you desperately want her to ask for help but to do so would mean inviting adults into her life and home and that could have terrible consequences. As the story moves on, Faith uncovers a dark history that connects the house with smugglers, shipwrecks, terrible actions and hidden treasure. With Faith crumbling under responsibilities, trying to keep up a happy facade and the house teetering ever more precariously on the edge, it seems only a matter of time before one, the other or both will crumble.
Cotter deals with important issues. Faith has been forced to grow-up fast and her carefree life has been replaced by responsibilities way beyond her thirteen years. She finds herself in the role of a young carer who is having to support a mother who is struggling with mental health issues, having to look after her younger sibling and trying to maintain the pretence that everything is normal at home.
An assured debut and I look forward to Cotter’s second book which is due out in 2022.
Recommended for 9+.
With huge thanks to Alex Cotter and Nosy Crow for the advanced reader copy that I received via Netgalley.