SHE IS A HAUNTING, by Trang Thanh Tran, Bloomsbury YA, Feb. 28, 2023, Hardcover, $18.99 (young adult, ages 14 and up, lbgqt+)
A Vietnamese family is haunted by the house they’re trying to restore in She Is a Haunting, by Trang Thanh Tran.
When Jade Nguyen arrives in Vietnam for a visit with her estranged father, she has one goal: survive five weeks pretending to be a happy family in the French colonial house Ba is restoring. She’s always lied to fit in, so if she’s straight enough, Vietnamese enough, American enough, she can get out with the college money he promised.
But the house has other plans. Night after night, Jade wakes up paralyzed. The walls exude a thrumming sound while bugs leave their legs and feelers in places they don’t belong. She finds curious traces of her ancestors in the gardens they once tended. And at night Jade can’t ignore the ghost of the beautiful bride who leaves cryptic warnings: Don’t eat.
Neither Ba nor her sweet sister Lily believe that there is anything strange happening. With help from a delinquent girl, Jade will prove this house — the home they have always wanted — will not rest until it destroys them. Maybe, this time, she can keep her family together. As she roots out the house’s rot, she must also face the truth of who she is and who she must become to save them all. —Synopsis provided by Bloomsbury YA
She Is a Haunting has some serious Gothic vibes going. This moody mystery has everything needed to make your skin crawl.
Author Trang Thanh Tran immediately sets the tone, transporting readers to the hot and muggy Vietnamese countryside. Though the house’s restoration is near complete, it remains dank and mildewy with the scent of surrounding flowers hanging cloyingly in the air.
Jade is seemingly the only one who sees the house for what it is — a colonial byproduct that should never have been revisited. The house itself and its former inhabitants become main players beside Jade, taking the creepiness level up more than one notch.
She Is a Haunting is a multi-layered horror novel that utilizes the supernatural while exploring colonialist history and family dynamics. It’s a haunting queer take that lingers when finished.
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