When I first read the synopsis for Kayla Cottingham’s My Dearest Darkest, I wasn’t sure if I would like it as I hadn’t ready anything quite like this in sometime. However, I’m glad I gave it a shot because it only took a few pages before I was completely invested in this hauntingly beautiful setting, morbidly beautiful story, and charismatic characters.
Synopsis for My Dearest Darkest
Set against the backdrop of an elite New England boarding school, My Dearest Darkest is a must-read for fans of horror and dark academia. This hauntingly atmospheric tale follows a group of teenage girls as they learn just how far they will go to get what they want — and at what cost.
Finch Chamberlin is the newest transfer student to the ultra-competitive Ulalume Academy… but she’s also not what she seems. Months before school started, Finch and her parents got into an accident that should have left her dead at the bottom of the river. But something monstrous, and ancient, and terrifying, wouldn’t let her drown. Finch doesn’t know why she woke up after her heart stopped, but since dying she’s felt a constant pull from the school and the surrounding town of Rainwater, like something on the island is calling to her.
Selena St. Clair sees right through Finch, and she knows something is seriously wrong with her. But despite Selena’s suspicion, she feels drawn to Finch and has a sinking feeling that from now on the two will be inexplicably linked to one another. One night Finch, Selena, and her friends accidentally summon a carnivorous creature of immense power in the depths of the school. It promises to grant every desire the girls have kept locked away in their insecure hearts—beauty, power, adoration—in exchange for a price: human body parts. But as the cost of their wanting becomes more deadly, Finch and Selena must learn to work together to stop the horror they unleashed, before it consumes the entire island.
My Dearest Darkest delivered a page turner that I never wanted to end. It’s queer horror at its finest and I loved seeing all the diversity and representation. It felt like there was a character for everyone; someone you could relate to or at least relate to their experience(s). Personally, I related to Finch the most especially when I was younger; kind but awkward and never wanting to be the center of attention. She was one of my favorite characters but ultimately her relationship with Selena was what made this novel special. It may start out a bit rocky, but as the story builds, they’re connection was truly something special and I loved how both of their character developments played out.
For me, My Dearest Darkest was like a combination of The Craft meets Mean Girls (two of my favorite movies ever!). So basically a group of popular, pretty, rich girls find themselves medaling in the occult and one or more of them takes it too far. You can’t tell me that doesn’t that sound like Nancy Downs! Although I couldn’t relate to them all attending a pretty awesome esteemed academy, I could easily understand how tempting it would be to get mixed in all of this. We all want things in life and when someone or something is offering it as a gift, the temptation is all too much. Although the story starts out depressing, it only becomes more dark and brutal as the twists and turns unfold. Towards the end, it even gets a bit Lovecraftian and I’m 100 percent okay with that.
I can’t believe My Dearest Darkest was Kayla Cottingham’s debut novel. She blew me away with this unique and morbidly beautiful story and I can’t stop thinking about it. She brought life to all different types of characters and most importantly different types of representation. I can’t wait to see/read what she does next!