The Cold is in Her Bones by Peternelle van Arsdale

Margaret K. McElderry Books 2019

This is a beautifully written and absorbing mythopoeic fantasy that explores the damage that can be caused by “othering.” It is set in a small forest community – and the claustrophobic atmosphere of this locale adds to the overall affect of the book – where girls and young women are always at risk of being possessed by the spirit of a woman who was ostracized because of her strangeness. Milla lives with her parents and her brother on a small farm. Both her parents seem to distrust her, and she longs to be loved. When a girl moves in to a neighbouring farm, she gains her first real friend apart from her brother, and when both Milla’s brother and her new friend are threatened by the “demon,” Milla risks everything to save them.

van Arsdale conveys Milla’s feeling of isolation and her longing to belong very well. I think what I appreciated most about this story was the portrayal of how lack of affection can be a form of abuse. The coldness of Milla’s father, in particular, is painful. Milla is a strong character, brave and true to her friend and brother without the author resorting to cliches of the feisty heroine, and I also liked that there was no need for the romance tropes of much YA fiction. This is in some ways a disturbing little book, but overall a very effective one.

I was provided an ARC of this novel by NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.