Disclosure: I will later this year be featuring in an anthology with Stuart, Carnage: Extreme Horror and I was given an ARC copy of Charlotte in exchange for an honest review. My opinions here are formed of my being a keen reader of horror fiction, and not as a writer.
This novella is a striking piece of fiction, capturing parental fears as well as childhood ones as the central character, a 9-year old girl called Amy, develops an imaginary friend, Charlotte of the title. Ignored at home and bullied at school, Amy’s assertive new fictitious pal gives her the confidence to stand up for herself, but this gradually builds to nightmarish levels. We are treated to a flash-forward in the early pages, giving you a little taste of what is in store.
Keane then takes us back a few weeks and we witness the bullying in scenes so realistically rendered that anyone who suffered at school will flinch to read them. He captures the feel of life at school most effectively, and scenes of Amy’s isolation and interactions with her coasting parents will have you almost cheering when the main character begins to lift her head up.
Which is when the story changes gear, and the tension is ratcheted up, notch by notch and a devious plan begins to fall into place.
Gruesome, thrilling, emotional and creepy as hell. Check on your kids, and give this story a read.