Shiverton Hall

Despite never having applied for one, 14-year-old Arthur Bannister receives a scholarship to Shiverton Hall, a creaky Gothic boarding school that belongs in another age. Hogwarts it ain’t. Shiverton Hall’s dark history involved it being inherited by a young boy who may or may not have done away with his parents before succumbing to a curse that saw him die whilst regurgitating his own intestines. Later, but before becoming a school, the place served as a lunatic asylum too.

Arthur isn’t quite sure whether to believe the fevered stories of his terrified new schoolmates, but when curly-haired dolls and armless (though certainly not harmless) clowns in bowler hats start haunting the dormitories at night, he realises there is something decidedly wicked going on at Shiverton Hall. And it all has something to do with imaginary friends returning to visit their now-teenage creators, urging them to jump to their deaths from a high height…

Emerald Fennell is clearly a big horror fan. The doll reminded me of the horror movie Child’s Play, and the clown reminded me of Stephen King’s It. There is psychological and body horror aplenty, and this would have been far too scary for me at 10 years old. The story goes into some pretty dark places, especially when some of the more horrific twists are incongruously realistic, but it all comes together to deliver the message about standing up for yourself and others at the end.