Spotlight on Suspense
Tis the season for monsters, ghosts, witches, and things that go bump in the night. And if there's a better creature of the night than vampires, I don't know what it is. I'm not talking those NOT-pires that sparkle like so many unicorns in the sunshine and grace the pages of certain paranormal romances. i'm talking real old school vampires. The sort that should terrify us (if we know what's good for us).
While Rachel Kline's The Moth Diaries isn't terrifying in the obvious way, there's a subtle building sense of suspense and dread here that makes the story's creepiness factor almost worse than if there had been blood splattered over every scene. This gives the story a similar feel to that of Charlotte Perkins' classic, The Yellow Wallpaper in that, by story's end, you, the reader, don't really know what's real and what's in the narrator's head almost feel slightly mad yourself. In my opinion, this is exactly what a good horror story should do.
We meet the unnamed narrator when she is beginning her year at boarding school. She is glad to be away from home and excited to see her best friend, Lucy, with whom she is sharing a suite. Typical feelings. But then Lucy makes friends with new girl, Ernessa. At first it seems like nothing more than jealousy, but things begin to turn dark as the narrator develops an increasingly unhealthy obsession with Lucy and Ernessa. She begins to suspect Ernessa is a vampire who is slowly sucking the life force from Lucy. As the semester wears on, strange occurrences begin to plague the school, and Lucy becomes mysteriously ill. This should be proof enough that the narrator is correct about Ernessa. But why can no one else see it? In the end the reader is left wondering: Is Ernessa really a vampire? Or has everything that happened been filtered through a disturbed imagination?
I admit it: The Moth Diaries completely creeped me out when I read it. And that feeling lingered long after I finished. I suppose it's because it's not about real actual monsters, but rather about how the mind (anyone's mind) can create them given the right combination of circumstances.
Recommended for anyone looking to get that "hairs on the back of your neck" feeling. --AJB