Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Litani by Jess Lourey

Frankie's father has died, which means that the young teen has been sent away from their home in Pasadena, to live with her mom in the small Minnesota town of Litani.

She and her mom have never been close, which makes the move that much harder. But Frankie feels responsible for her father's death, so living with her closed-off mom is just part of the punishment she thinks she deserves. 

As soon as she arrives, Frankie is warned about dark things in Litani. Within just a few days, she's heard about dead animals and missing kids. Worse than that, she's heard about The Game. And whatever The Game might be, she knows it's something to be afraid of. 

As rumors of Satanic worship swirl around the small town, talk of Frankie's own father's past starts to make it's way to the girl. Frankie becomes determined to learn more about her family while also vowing to help make Litani safe for kids. But where does a fourteen year old start in an investigation that seemingly stumps the professionals?

Jess Lourey writes some incredibly disturbing stuff! In Litani, as with Unspeakable Things, the narrator is a young girl and it lends a wide-eyed innocence to the story that makes the content all that much more unsettling. 

Frankie is fourteen and—except for one visit that ended badly—this is her first time in Litani. But it's the town where her mother and father grew up. The town where they met. The town their families are from. Everyone knows who Frankie is as soon as she arrives. And they know things about her family that even she is unaware of. 

As soon becomes clear to Frankie, some very bad things are happening to the kids in Litani. But she doesn't quite understand what those bad things are. And because Frankie is young and has led a fairly sheltered life—not just because the story is set in 1984—she misses some of the hints about said bad things. Hints that the reader doesn't miss.

And I have to say that those things weigh heavy on your mind as you follow such a young main character through the narrative. 

Lourey does offer a slightly older foil who tries to open Frankie's eyes to some of the things she's not seeing. I'd say it helps the reader as well, but I think most readers (especially those familiar with Lourey's books) don't really need the help. 

Litani is not an easy read by way of theme. And it reminded me a lot of Clay McLeod Chapman's Whisper Down the Lane, in that it draws from the same fervor of the era and even mentions the very case the latter is based on. 

I enjoy Lourey's work because it is so gripping. And also incredibly layered. Yes, this is a dark tale in more ways than one. But it's also got a young heroine who is determined to be just that—a heroine. She has her own suffering but she wants to save everyone around her. Her story is not an easy one to read but she's easily the girl next door in every sense of the phrase: you quite literally do not know what the people around you are going through. 

Lourey is an absolute must read for me. If you can handle the darker aspects of real life, her thrillers are undeniably gripping and her talent is amazing! 

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

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