Mallory killed her boyfriend. She doesn’t remember much of what happened, just the fear, but the authorities agree it was self-defence. However her parents decide that she would be better off finishing her education away from the town where everyone knows. Arriving at boarding school, Mallory hopes for a fresh start, but she can’t escape the feeling of fear. The other students aren’t welcoming and she starts to wake up in the night; convinced there is someone in her room with her. Is she losing her mind or is someone out to get her?
Hysteria is a fantastic pacey thriller for young adults. It treads a fine line between reality and supernatural, keeping you guessing right to the end whether or not she’s just going crazy or if there’s something else at play. So often books that take this approach will make it all too obvious is it’s one or the other. There’s lots of edge of your seat tension and I found myself staying up late to finish it.
The word hysteria might conjure up images of Victorian ladies getting a bit emotional but it is a real mental condition. The story plays with Mallory’s paranoia and anxiety and how easily our minds can play tricks on us. We are doubting Mallory as she starts to doubt herself. If she killed one person, isn’t she capable of killing more?
The events of the night she killed her boyfriend are revealed in flashbacks, little glimpses as she starts to recall things and puts the pieces together. The present day story is much more convincing; I struggled to really understand her relationships or feel her terror in the flashbacks. It kind of came across as oh well you killed someone but never mind. When she remembers, it’s not like I felt the actions of others justified what she did. I thought they were a bit harsh on Brian’s mother, her grief has obviously pushed her over the edge, but her son has been killed and justice has not been carried out in her eyes. What do they expect?
Hysteria is published in the UK by Bloomsbury and will be available in paperback and ebook formats from 14th February 2013. The US edition is out a few days earlier on the 5th. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.