Cover Image: Under This Red Rock

Under This Red Rock

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Under This Red Rock by Mindy McGinnis is a young adult psychological thriller novel with a slight edge of horror to it. The story in Under This Red Rock is one that contains some highly sensitive subjects such as mental illness and suicide so it may not be for everyone with such triggers.

Neely has always been different from others with the exception of her own family. Neely’s family have all had a history of mental illness right down to Neely and her brother but after the loss of her parents and her brother’s suicide Neely has learned to deal with the voices of the monsters in her head all on her own.

The one place Neely gets some relief from her troubles is down in a place known as the caverns. Neely decides to apply for a job as a tour guide through the caverns giving her hours of relief while she is working. This is where Neely meets Mila who she finds herself falling for until one night Mila is found brutally murdered in the caverns and Neely isn’t too sure she isn’t the murderer.

Mindy McGinnis is widely known for her intriguing young adult thrillers, some of which I have read and enjoyed myself in the past so I was excited to dive into Under This Red Rock. I have to say though that for me this wasn’t among the author’s best work as for one I figured things out way too early on which always puts a damper on my excitement which also made the story feel a little slow moving to me afterwards just hoping for a twist or two to come to knock me off my feet. I’m sure some will still love this one even if not my favorite though.

I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

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Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with this e-ARC! I do my reviews on my social media platforms. I am currently working on getting through my reviews so stay tuned! Leaving a rating as a placeholder for me and to not effect the books rating in order to post this. Thanks again!

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Neely is a 16 year old that suffers from auditory hallucinations. Reeling from the recent loss of her brother, the long ago traumatic death of her mother (in front of her and her brother when they were just children), and the knowledge that her dad walked out on them because he couldn't escape his demons- Neely has clearly been through a lot in her short 16 years. Now living with her elderly grandparents, she gets a job at the local cave system, not only to help earn a little money for her grandparents, but because being underground is the only time her hallucinations will leave her alone. Here at the cave she makes friends with Brian, her brothers closest friend before he died, and Mila, the object of Neely's wet dreams. As Neely and Brain get close, he tells Neely things she never knew about her brother, and makes her question everything. But just like Brian, Neely is also getting closer to Mila, and the closer she gets the harder she falls. Then, a few weeks after working at the cave, the staff throw a party, followed by an after party, that leads to Mila and Neely sneaking off together in the night. But 3 days later, Mila is missing, only to be found barely alive during the first cave tour of the day- and suddenly fall to her death just when help was inches away. Now there's a murder investigation, and Neely's hallucinations are evolving, from auditory to visual, and they're no longer following her rules either.

McGinnnis does it again. Spooky and twisty. I had no idea what was going to happen and I really spent the whole time thinking it was one person, just to be shocked at the end. Wow. Also what an honest reflection of what a psychotic break must feel like, my adrenaline was GOING the back half of this book, I couldn't put it down.

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Thanks to NetGalley for the eARC, all opinions are my own.


This story is unique in that it doesn’t shy away from the grim reality of mental illness and the struggles the can overtake a person experiencing it. It’s important that books like this one are written because it helps to open conversation surrounding mental health and removes some stigma. It also allows more people to gain empathy for someone experiencing this while also providing validity to anyone reading who may be going through or has gone through something similar.

Neely felt like such a real person as the reader. I felt so much heartbreak for her reading about her experiences and understanding the depth of what she was feeling. It was difficult to read but in a good, thought provoking way that allows the reader to truly put themselves in Neely’s shoes. My only hope is that readers who cannot relate to Neely’s feelings or experiences can still have empathy and reserve judgement for her strange coping mechanisms or thoughts.

As a person who has my own mental health struggles, family that also struggles with significant mental illness, and a past filled with immense loss, I saw a lot of myself and my own experiences in Neely’s story. It was devastating at times and I wanted to comfort Neely, which in turn sort of helped me process my own experiences and apply that compassion to my inner child.

I only docked a star because I felt the ending could have had a bigger impact. It felt abrupt in a way and I think more details could have helped me understand and connect the events that led up to the ending with where we find Neely in the end of the story. It sort of left me questioning why did x,y,z need to happen to get to this point? That’s just me.

I’d recommend this novel to anyone, but especially those who like mysteries and plots focused on mental health. But I suggest reading the trigger warnings because this is not an easy story to digest though it’s an important one.

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Mindy McGinnis stans unite

Also... FINALLY... after reading her books for like 6 years straight... the wlw UNDERTONES have become OVERTONES

Neely has had a rough one... her dad had mental illness and left, her mom died in a car accident, and her only other nuclear family member, her brother, has recently killed himself. Both she and her brother also have similar mental illnesses as their father - they either see and/or hear things that aren't there. Neely has a couple recurring characters in her life that aren't real.

She lives with her grandparents and gets a summer job at these caverns she always visits. Underground is the only place she knows for sure she won't hear her voices, plus she's good at giving the tours because she knows the place like the back of her hand.

She gets to know some of her coworkers, one of whom was her late brother's best friend, and one of whom is a girl she ends up really liking.

And well, something happens that's in the synopsis, but I didn't read the synopsis, so I was fully surprised and I hope you may allow yourself to be as well.

I think this book is a really interesting look into mental illness, the way things devolve over time when left untreated, and the way your brain keeps you from trusting yourself when you're deep in a mental health crisis. I think there are a few little twists that are really shocking and it's just generally engrossing.

I love Mindy McGinnis's writing and she always is unhinged which is what I love about her lol. This is definitely a new direction for her, but at the same time it's not, because her stuff is always pretty dark and painful lol. I don't know that this would be where I told a non-fan to start out in her body of work, but if you love her books, you'll love this one just as good.

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Mindy McGinnis shines in this story that keeps the main character guessing just as much as the reader. Neely is used to the voices - they are, after all, the reason she took the job at the caverns- the only place where the voices don't follow her. She is not, however, used to feeling like she doesn't know her own actions. With a gap in her memory and a dead body in the caverns, Neely must determine what happened during that time and if has any responsibility for the dead girl.

McGinnis never fails to keep me engaged in her writing. No exception to the rule, Under This Red Rock, kept me riveted through the whole story. This is perfect for any of her existing fans or for fans of other YA thriller authors like Karen McManus or Maureen Johnson.

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This thriller will keep you on the edge of your seat. You think everything is "fine" until it is not. this book is much more than a thriller: dealing with grief, mental illness, and family. Definitely for fans of McGinnis's other books.

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This was an intense tale. I loved the blend of characters and their interactions throughout the story. I feel like any reader may be able to find a piece of themselves in at least one of them. Neely reminds me how hard it is to be not just an adolescent with no real connections but just a human with those restrictions. I can think of several folks who I think could truly benefit from reading this, but before recommending this to anyone, really, really think it through. This could be triggering for many on different levels. Great one!

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Deep, harrowing, and not shying away from hard topics, Under This Red Rock is a powerful YA novel! Another great book from a fantastic and creative author!

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This is a solid YA thriller. It follows a schizophrenic main character whose quiet place is the caverns in her town. It is truly heartbreaking to go on the journey of our protagonist as she slips further into a psychotic break while questioning reality and her hallucinations. I will say the plot twist was good, but I felt it was so rushed after. That there was this long, lingering build up and then an explosion and that’s it. So the ending left something to be desired. But I still think it’s a great story for a young adult audience.

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Woo! Quite the read! I really love Mindy McGinnis and this one did not disappoint. The beginning starts a bit slow but definitely picks up in the middle. Definitely on my favorites shelf in my library!

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I would read anything by Mindy McGinnis. I love how she digs deep into subjects that make us uncomfortable. Every single one that I've read, I've put on a list for my 14 year old daughter to read.

This book follows a teenage girl that suffers from auditory hallucinations that she seems to have inherited from her father. She struggles to fit in and to find her place in a world were she's considered a freak. The only place where she finds peace is underground in a cavern and where she finds herself lucky enough to land a summer job giving tours. Unfortunately, events that follow leave her questioning her mental state even more.

This one was had me on a roller coaster of emotions. I will be thinking about it for a long time!

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True to form, McGinnis’ newest book delivers the unfiltered thoughts from an atypical narrator with poetic prose that doesn’t flinch from the dark and the ugly - and the unreal.
Nealy is deeply flawed, deeply scarred, and you don’t have to want to be her friend to empathize with her. We see her personal tragedies with visceral visuals, although the emotions are reserved and almost distant.
One of my favorite elements of McGinnis’ books is that she writes protagonists that are fundamentally broken, but they are also imbued with a personal strength - whether that strength works for good or evil purposes varies!
Thematically, she grapples with the idea that not revealing the dark inside ourselves and others leads to avoidable hardship and potentially to tragedy.

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I love Mindy McGinnis. She writes YA (young adult) that is not watered down or glossed over like a lot of books for that target audience are, and feels lore real life. It's gritty, it's nasty, but it's real. I think most of her books that I've read have been highly rated reads for me, but THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES has always been my absolute favorite.

Until I read Under This Red Rock.

I don't know how Mindy did it, but Neely and her monsters were some of the most honest realistic characters I have read in a long time. I'm itching to know what kind of research she did to write the type of main character that Neely is. Though I can't relate fully to her, there were moments where I felt seen and understood. The awkwardness and inability to fit in even though you try I think can be understood by so many people in so many situations.

The entire novel was just a prime example of the skill McGinnis has with creating these worlds and characters with all these individual issues, personalities, and interlocking stories. Living in Ohio, I don't know what inspiration she used for the caverns, but I had a very specific and popular cavern system in mind when I was reading, which influenced the visuals nicely for me.

Towards the climax, there are chapters that flip back and forth between past and present, rapidly changing, forcing you to move on as fast as possible to find out what happens, until things come crashing down around you, around Neely, and you find yourself shakily facing the rapidly approaching ending that you ungracefully fall into. It was an emotional ride, and I finished the last page with goosebumps on my arms and the hair standing up. It was an intense ride, my heart raced, and amazingly I wanted to just start it over again. I can't remember the last time I had ended a book with a desire to dive right back in at the beginning.

THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES was confidently my favorite Mindy McGinnis book, with HEROINE a very very close second, and I didn't think that would change. Then Neely came, disrupting everything, and I'm not mad.

Read if you like: realistic characters, gritty stories, mental health representation, satisfying ending.

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Sometimes, I wish Mindy McGinnis could publish multitudes of books per year, like some sort of Cyborg Author™, but then I wonder if they would not hit as hard as when we were graced with our yearly offering. I digress, but man I love her books. Under This Red Rock is no exception. Since this is a mystery, I will keep it short and sweet!

Neely is a mess. You can't help but feel for her. She lives with her grandparents after the deaths of her mother and brother (on two very different, very horrific occasions). She suffers from mental illness, but she has been told her whole life that she had to hide her inner demons, basically. And so, she tries, because she doesn't want to put her grandparents through any more awfulness. But she still hears (and talks to) people and things that are not really there. Needless to say, she's not particularly popular, and she finally finds some people to connect with when she gets a job at the local caverns, which happen to be a place she has always enjoyed.

But turns out, the staff get into some drug and alcohol infused hijinks after hours, which is bad enough for people who aren't already suffering hallucinations. Neely reacts poorly, and when someone she deeply cares about winds up dead... well, Neely wants to know how this happened, even if she has to look closely at herself, too. There is a lot of mystery and excitement, but also a lot of character growth as Neely has to confront a lot of dark information about herself, her family, her past, and her present.

Bottom Line: Couldn't put it down. Is it time for Mindy's next book yet?

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I am blown away every time I read a book by McGinnis. Neely is suffering from hallucinations and has learned to cope with them. She finds a job in the nearby caves where she finds freedom from the hallucinations, but a horrific death sends her spiraling as she tries to determine if the murderer is her.

This book is such a fantastic book. McGinnis' writing pulls you into Neely's world and has you wondering just how much of her narrative we can believe. The murder mentioned in the blurb takes a while to happen, but that's because time is taken to really get to know the characters and know just how affected Neely is. You begin to forget that there is a murder and cheer for Neely as she begins to make friends and possibly begin healing from the death of her brother, which makes the inciting incident so much more painful. The ending is rushed, which was a bit disappointing, but the entire thing was so good, I'm willing to overlook it.

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Neely isn't sure what happened to her friend, because her mental health issues cause hallucinations and gaps in her memory. This story takes us on a journey of a family who has struggled with mental health and the associated stigmas, and a daughter who just wants to live a normal life.

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The two words I would use to describe this book are dark and disturbing. In “Under This Red Rock”, McGinnis tackles mental illness, SA, suicide, trauma, death, grief, murder, and the darker side of human nature. I love McGinnis’s writing and I’m always excited when she releases a new book. Her writing is so unique and immersive, and her characters are raw and complex.

This was a dark and bleak read that left me feeling sad. There are so many heavy topics explored and it was hard to read certain parts. I thought Neely was an interesting main character, the ultimate unreliable narrator. She has an undiagnosed mental illness where she has auditory and visual hallucinations. She often has a distorted sense of reality. Could she have been responsible for her new friend’s death? The murder mystery in this book kept me guessing until the end.

This wasn’t my all time favorite book by McGinnis, but I would still recommend it to YA mystery lovers. If you liked McGinnis’s other books, you’ll most likely enjoy this one.

TW: SA, suicide, mental illness, murder, animal death, animal cruelty, drug use

3.5/5 stars

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Mindy McGinnis looks at mental illness from the inside out, creating a character that allows you to see and hear her hallucinations.

Neely is plagued by monsters. Monsters that speak to here. Her family has a history of mental illness and her brother just committed suicide over his. She knows when she hears the voices growing louder that she doesn’t have as much control of her mind as she needs to. Trying to establish some normalcy and quiet her mind, she works as a tour guide in a local cave system. Not only are the caverns astonishing, but they block the voices from bothering them. Here she makes an actual friend, a college student named Mila. She is gorgeous and confident and full of life; a balance against Neeley’s own personality. Neely finds herself becoming more stable. But then Mila goes missing and Neeley can’t fight the voices anymore. Something lurks underground. Be it man, monster or delusions is unknown.

I always love McGinnis’ characters. They are complex looking into their moral grey areas. Even those that seem perfect on the outside always have something dark hiding inside. Neely’s complexity is multiplied by her mental health issues. She struggles to do right but ends up doing wrong. Characters like Mila have something dark lurking within them due to an event in the book though she will deny this. No one is ever what they seem. The book is scary and best when it looks at something people live with daily. I couldn’t imagine Neely’s life. The cave itself is a character in its own right. The deep darkness sizzles with fear and danger even though they give Neely relief. But wouldn’t darkness save Neely from her own darkness?

The ending crashes down on the reader too quickly. Tension is lost and readers don’t have time to process the answer to the mystery of Mila. There is an epilogue that gives you some idea of what happens after the climax, but I feel like I didn’t get enough resolution for Max who I had bonded with during the book.

McGinnis does include a Content Warning for suicide. Besides suicide, this book has drug and alcohol use, as well as mentions sexual deviancy and rape. Some animal deaths are alluded to.

This is a dark psychological thriller that twists and turns giving the reader an amazing thrill. The ending is not the best, but horror fans will enjoy Under This Read Rock

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Mindy McGinnis does a brilliant job discussing mental health and spooky way. The protagonist Neely’s perspective was creepy and brought in a level of intrigue that McGinnis is a master at.

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