Julie Affleck's mid-grade supernatural thriller, The Unbelievers, flows relentlessly and as swiftly as the river that features in the heart of her tale. When Leigh and her close-knit group of friends decide to go to lunch one frigid winter day, they get swept up in the current of a curse that has plagued their island community for over 65 years: a curse which threatens to untie more than the bonds of friendship, but the bonds of life.
Although dealing with topics which may be a little heavy for younger readers: suicide, kidnapping, murder, rape, madness, The Unbelievers is clearly aimed at younger readers. Affleck demonstrates a keen understanding of social dynamics as well as the importance of doing the hard work necessary to maintain friendships. Underlying the entire story, the themes of courage, initiative, modern skepticism, youthful imagination, and the strength of love to warp or heal combine to forge a memorable story.
For me, The Unbelievers coaxed memories from my own childhood of the things my friends and I would find in the woods, and the tales we'd tell each other, reinventing our concrete world into something more deliciously frightening and powerful. I could relate to the tale's unfolding as well as the familiar tools to which Leigh and her friends turned. I appreciated the telling, and I know my younger self would have enjoyed it even more.
For a chance to win one of two paperback copies of The Unbelievers, check out our interview with Julie Affleck, which includes a giveaway.
The Unbelievers can be purchased on Amazon