Set in the 1950s, this story is narrated mainly by 13-year-old Lizzie, who lives in a small coastal town, in a comfortable home with aspirational parents. When the school summer term starts she meets a new girl, Natalie, a wild, audacious girl from the wrong end of town, who fascinates and inspires her, causing her to drop her former friends.
At first this seems like a mild teenage rebellion on Lizzie’s part, but a prologue, in which Lizzie is clearly recovering from some trauma, has already hinted at something more. Occasional diary entries from Natalie reveal her disturbed state of mind. Natalie has a strange little brother, Philip; and soon the story turns darker as Lizzie begins to realise that Philip has some sort of second sight and is able to point out “left-over Nazis”; he can see the swastikas on their hearts, says Natalie. Soon the three children are engaged in a campaign of hunting out and harassing several harmless people, two of whom feel driven to leave the town. Then their attention turns to the artist Hugo Kesler, who has a caravan on the beach and comes every summer to paint – a man who engages with all three of them in different ways. The events that follow build to a horrifying and completely unexpected climax.
Diana Hendry captures well the emotional turmoil of girls in early adolescence. This is a powerful book, beautifully written, and recommended for thoughtful readers of 12+.