Eventually, every hidden thing is found.
Elise knows every inch of the house. She knows which boards will creak. She knows where the gaps are in the walls. She knows which parts can take her in, hide her away. It’s home, after all. The home her parents made for her. And home is where you stay, no matter what.
Eddie calls the same house his home. Eddie is almost a teenager now. He must no longer believe in the girl he sometimes sees from the corner of his eye. He needs her to disappear. But when his older brother senses her too, they are faced with a question: how do they get rid of someone they aren’t sure even exists?
And, if they cast her out, what other threats might they invite in?
Written with grace and enormous heart, Girl in the Walls by debut author A.J Gnuse is a captivating and suspenseful coming-of-age novel about carrying on through grief, forging unconventional friendships, and realizing, little by little, that we don’t need to fear what we do not understand.
The novel follows eleven-year-old orphan Elise, as she hides within the walls of her former family home, watching the house’s new residents, the Masons, carry on with their lives. Though this might sound creepy, Elise is anything but; she’s intelligent and resourceful and perceptive and kind, and my heart ached for her as I followed her story and watched her grapple with the loss of her parents. Layer by layer, Gnuse slowly peels back the mystery of Elise, revealing how she came to be hidden with the walls of the Mason’s house – and what compels her to stay there.
Another standout feature of the novel is the house, which is almost a character in itself. Inspired in part by his own family home, Gnuse vividly brings the house to life, complete with creaking floorboards and hidden spaces. It’s the perfect setting for a gothic novel, and I was mesmerised by Gnuse’s detailed descriptions of the old house – so much so that I found myself re-reading particular passages out loud, which is always a sign that you’re in the hands of a capable and skilled storyteller.
Exquisitely written and highly original, Girl in the Walls is a powerful and haunting story of belonging and loss, perfect for fans of contemporary gothic fiction or readers looking for something a little different. It’s hard to believe that this is only A.J. Gnuse’s debut – it’s so remarkably done. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on this author going forward.