A chilling mystery, inspired by true horrors of our nation.
Book CWs: For a list of content/trigger warnings, tropes, and representation found in this book, check out its page on BookTriggerWarnings.com!
Premise (from Goodreads)
The Amazon Charts bestselling author of Unspeakable Things and Bloodline explores the darkness at the heart of the rural Midwest in a novel inspired by a chilling true crime.
In the summer of ’84, fourteen-year-old Frankie Jubilee is shuttled off to Litani, Minnesota, to live with her estranged mother, a county prosecutor she barely knows. From the start, Frankie senses something uneasy going on in the small town. The locals whisper about The Game, and her mother warns her to stay out of the woods and away from adults.
When a bullying gang of girls invites Frankie to The Game, she accepts, determined to find out what’s really going on in Litani. She’s not the only one becoming paranoid. Hysteria burns through the community. Dark secrets emerge. And Frankie fears that, even in the bright light of day, she might be living among monsters.
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Review (No Spoilers)
Note: I was provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, Sabrina!
Let me start off this review by giving everyone a brief warning. Litani is inspired by the Satanic Panic that occurred during the 80s, so the main theme of the book has to do with the idea of an underground child sex ring. It does not shy away from topics about child abuse, including child sexual abuse. There are no real explicit details about what would happen to a child in these situations, but the implications are there. Please be safe when reading it! You can find a list of content/trigger warnings above.
Now that I’ve gotten that disclaimer out of the way, I want to say that the timing of me reading this book was perfect. I had literally never heard of Satanic Panic before a few weeks ago, when I listened to a podcast episode about it from You’re Wrong About. Side-note, that podcast and its hosts are great, and I’d definitely recommend it!
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the phrase, Satanic Panic was a phenomena that started in the United States in the 1980s. Basically, there were a lot of unsubstantiated claims that there was a global child sex ring started by satanic cults/satan worshippers. Despite lack of solid evidence that this was the case (children may have been getting sexually assaulted, but there was no proof for the notion of an underground international satanic sex ring), it didn’t stop the hysteria and paranoia that followed as a result.
Litani follows the story of a 14 year old girl (note: I would not classify this as a YA. It is an adult novel through and through) who just experienced the loss of her father and is forced to move in with her estranged (and emotionally distant) mother. While she explores the town, she hears whispers about something called “The Game” and about children being molested and sometimes murdered in satanic rituals. She is consistently warned by multiple members of the community to not play with any adults. Not only that, but is there someone lurking outside her window at night?
Needless to say, this book is creepy. The copy that I have calls it a mystery on the back blurb, but for me, it definitely falls under the thriller category. It gets under your skin chapter after chapter. One of the things that I think it was particularly good at was making every single adult seem suspicious. Is there really a child sex ring in this town? How many adults and children are involved? What horrors lie in the town’s past and why won’t anyone talk about it?
Something that I was not expecting was to be educated on several types of plants. The main character, Frankie, has deep knowledge of botany, due to her dad’s expertise, and there are a bunch of fun facts sprinkled throughout the book about the properties of plants, both good and bad. I had (and still have) the urge to write all of these down somewhere. There are even some fun (but kind of creepy) sketches included of human-plant hybrids that Frankie draws to keep track of the people she meets.
I wasn’t a huge fan of the writing style in the very beginning of the book, but it grew on me very quickly. Also, since it takes place in the 80s, I found myself noticing some phrases that I either haven’t heard in a long time or haven’t heard at all. The time-dated mentions of things like corded phones and VCR tapes often gave me intense feelings of nostalgia. Oh, how I miss my childhood.
If you’re into thrillers and can stomach the theme of child sexual abuse, I’d definitely recommend giving Litani a try. Its around 300 pages, and was a very quick read in my opinion. You likely won’t be able to put it down.
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