Cover Image: Withered

Withered

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

We open with an act of desperation. Tessa Sweet, 15 years old, stands in front of the house at the end of Cherry Lane. Ready to destroy it. Gasoline can in hand, grief and vengeance in her heart. It's time.

The house at the end of Cherry Lane isn't a normal house. It might not even be a ‘normal’ haunted house. The town knows all about it. Or, at least, the townspeople combined know about it, they just don't understand it. Everyone has their ideas, their theories, and they are all at least partially correct, it's just that no single individual knows the whole story.

Strange things happen in this town and even stranger things happen around it. The house seems to be the center of it all. There are creepy vibes throughout that remind you of your own haunted house stories from childhood, everyone had them.

This is, at once, a story about a haunted house, a hunted home, discovering or uncovering identity, and it's all tied together with threads of trauma, loss, mental illness, and becoming whole again. Places, and people, aren't always what or who they seem. This is why the genre is the perfect forum for the stories you'll find intertwined throughout.

This queer, psychological horror story will sneak up on you and surprise you with reflections, dialogue, and characters that make you think about your own life and experiences, and your own desires about living and dying. It asks you to consider how far you'd go and what you'd do after your loved one dies. It reminds you how powerful you are, even against death. But it comes as a warning.

Withered, by A.G.A. Wilmot, hits hard and goes deep. It covers some heavy topics. But, it's also a great haunted house themed horror novel. Be sure to leave the porch light on with this one, you never know what's out there…or, sometimes, what's within.

There's also an excellent shout out to the queens of horror, nay, the Goddesses of horror, podcasting from the horrid halls of academia at the The Faculty of Horror. A delicious surprise.

Was this review helpful?

Available now!

- A queer paranormal horror novel in the style of show-runner Mike Flanagan, showing the complex real life terror inherent in grief and mental illness. ☠️

If creepy is right up your alley with the haunted house trope, check it out! Thanks so much to ECW Press, NetGalley and A.G.A Wilmot for the opportunity.

#witherd #agawilmot #bookstagram #netgalley #horrorbooks #bookaddict #ecwpress

Was this review helpful?

I didn't find anything in this story to keep me interested. It was easily confused for any number of books just like it. There was no tension and no sense of dread or fear.

Was this review helpful?

This was my first ever read of a non binary main character, and it did take some getting used to with them referring to themselves as them, their etc. However it didn't take long for it to flow again naturally as I was reading and I'm really glad this was my first experience because this book was brilliant!

Chilling and utterly page turning thriller that keeps you wanting more. When Ellis and their mum move to their mums hometown after they lost their dad, Ellis struggles to fit in. Everyone is watching them, telling them their house is haunted - but who believes in ghosts?

Then Ellis starts to hear a voice, noises in the night and a front porch light that seems to have a mind of its own, what's going on?

This book was absolutely brilliant!

Was this review helpful?

Withered by A.G.A. Wilmot is a queer haunted house horror story that sets out to pull on the heartstrings more than to shock or scare. Exploring some heavy themes of grief, fat-shaming, queerness, trauma and mental illness, "Withered" still manages to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere... in spite of being horror.

If you like mild horror without too much gore or fright, this is definitely one to check out. Because it does deal with such heavy subjects, however, I would recommend checking out the trigger warnings first if you think that these might be sensitive for you.

I want to thank NetGalley and the publisher for a free copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here expressed are my own.

Was this review helpful?

Posted on Goodreads:

4/5⭐️

This is a queer paranormal YA horror novel that follows Ellis who’s trying to deal with the loss of their father, the getting better from an eating disorder and coming to terms with their gender identity.

In an attempt to start fresh, Ellis’s mom goes back to her childhood town, Black Stone, and buys the strange house on Cherry Lane. Now this house has a history of gloom. Deaths have occurred. Happenings occur and the town folk are obsessed in various ways. Some say it’s haunted, some say it’s being hunted, some think it’s a blessing.

As Ellis and their new girlfriend try to find answers, a person from the past returns to make things right. Something they started 25 years prior.

Incorporating three timelines, a haunted house and a reimagining of Death’s Day off, Withered is a great read that tackles the spookies, grief and mental health.

I truly appreciated the queer representation, the discussion on mental health issues, and a representation of what grief can make us do.

Analiese’s story of grief and defiance of death was powerful. Sad. And terrifying.

Thank you netgalley, ecw press and a.g.a. Wilmot for the opportunity to read this novel.

( EDiT: Video posted on TikTok but under review. Posted in instagram reels as well. Here’s the link.)

Was this review helpful?

HAPPY PUBLICATION TO ONE OF MY FAVORITE READS OF THE YEAR SO FAR!! 🥳

And a *huge* thank you to NetGalley and ECW Press for access to an eARC in exchange for my honest review.

When Ellis and their mother Robyn are forced to leave their old life behind and move back to their mother's home town, they're both still trying to through each day and to adjust to life following a personal tragedy. And as if that tragedy isn't enough, Ellis is still in the midst of recovering from an eating disorder that nearly killed them, which leaves them to struggle even more with the state of upheaval their life has been thrown into. So when a quick trip into a local cafe leads to a group of other teens claiming that their house is haunted and a danger to the rest of the town, they're obviously thrown enough to cause somewhat of a scene. Because obviously, the idea is insane... Except they start to notice weird sounds echoing through the house in the night, and the porch light is always on and flickers sometimes for no reason, and that one spot on the the wall where a light switch for the porch light should *definitely* be is extremely hot to the touch sometimes... Weird.

It's only after a few encounters with a girl in town, Quinn, that Ellis really begins to see some possible truth in the stories about the house at the end of Cherry Lane, only Quinn doesn't believe that they house's haunting is a malevolent one. The pair begin to dig deeper into the past of the house, unearthing secrets and tragedies they couldn't have even begun to imagine, including what happened with Tara Sweet and her family twenty-five years earlier, what is going on with the creepy DIY maze built into the cellar beneath the house, and what happened to create the consciousness that has taken hold of the house and changed so much of the town of Black Stone in the process.

This story was full of twists and turns and so much emotion, both in our leading characters in the present and in the snippets of the past that we receive along the way. And knowing that specific portions of the book are a short story of the author's that was the birthplace of this world and this idea for a book only makes me love this horrific little love story to the human mind and body more.

One of my favorite things about haunted house stories is that they are almost always used as a means to discuss the impact of grief and depression on a person's soul, and Withered plays with that idea from multiple different points of view, while also adding in the *impeccable* and *heartbreaking* use of the haunted house as a physical representation of the human body and how it houses us and keeps us strong, even when we hate it and don't care for it the way we're meant to.

The way that Ellis's past trauma with their eating disorder and body dysmorphia weaves through the entirety of the story and shows through their outlook on different people and situations as well as through small physical tells A.G.A. Wilmot describes in an almost off-hand, casual manner--making it clear that this is the norm for Ellis rather than something they view as off or different--was brilliant.

Honestly, I don't think there is a single thing I could complain about with this book. The characters were realistic and fun and hilarious and flawed and *so beautifully written*, the world building and the way the supernatural is woven into the house and the town as a whole was so gruesomely tender, and the combination of psychological suspense, young romance, real human struggles, and both mind and body horror was perfectly balanced. Plus, the inclusion of such an awesome cast of queer characters on top of a nonbinary main character, multiple poc characters, plus sized characters, and eating disorder representation.

However, I do always recommend that we read safely and responsibly and choose to be kind to ourselves when taking on new content. So the following are a list of content warnings I'd recommend keeping in mind.

CONTENT WARNINGS: body horror, gore, blood, death of a parent, cancer, terminal illness, death of a child, death of a sibling, death of a spouse, death of a loved one, eating disorder, body dysmorphia, mental illness, death, murder, forced institutionalization, body shaming, fatphobia, fire, emotional manipulation, grief, violence, burns/injuries from fire, attempted arson, mentions of car accident, and gaslighting.

Read safely and enjoy, loves, and yay again for publication day!! ✨

Was this review helpful?

𝖂𝖎𝖙𝖍𝖊𝖗𝖊𝖉
𝒷𝓎: 𝒜.𝒢.𝒜 𝒲𝒾𝓁𝓂𝑜𝓉

𝖆𝖇𝖔𝖚𝖙: Withered is queer psychological horror, a compelling tale of heartache, loss, and revenge that tackles important issues of mental health in the way that only horror can: by delving deep into them, cracking them open, and exposing their gruesome entrails.

𝖖𝖚𝖔𝖙𝖊: One life at a time, the shadow, enraptured -Its powers returned after being so long forbidden in this space-cut a swath
through the precinct, obliterating anything that moved. It did so swiftly, dispassionately, without hesitation or provocation, simply
because they were there. Because It was owed.

𝖋𝖆𝖛𝖔𝖗𝖎𝖙𝖊 𝖈𝖍𝖆𝖗𝖆𝖈𝖙𝖊𝖗: Ellis. They are so witty and caring, despite having to work through so much trauma, and identity. They have so much love and artistry to give, seeing them open up and realizing all they deserve was beautiful.

𝖜𝖍𝖆𝖙 𝕴 𝖑𝖎𝖐𝖊𝖉: The multiple pov’s and timelines were great! It was so interesting learning the back stories, and wondering what the heck is gonna happen?! This book definitely pulls at your heart strings and will leave you guessing until the end.

I would have never guessed this book would make me feel the way it did! It was heartfelt, eerie, mysterious, and even had some young love mixed in!

Was this review helpful?

I'm dnfing this one. It reads so much like a debut that needs a few more passes with an editor. If it were marketed as YA horror, which is what it is, I would have known better then to pick it up.

**Thank you NetGalley and ECW Press for the eARC**

Was this review helpful?

I really enjoyed this story. I loved to see the queer rep in this, especially non-binary character rep! I felt that Ellis's character was done very well with their identity. Trigger warning for eating disorder/anorexia references in the book, which was dealt with in a respectful way as well to me personally and I didn't find myself triggered however it's up to the individual if you think it may trigger you in any way!

I enjoyed the plot but I did feel that it took quite a bit for it to get going, the first half of the book was heavily on the lead up and took longer than I'd like to get into the swing of things, but it was still enjoyable for me.

Thank you NetGalley and A.G.A Wilmot for the e-arc of this book.

Was this review helpful?

This is a genre I am still new to! I did enjoy the story at the beginning & I love the queer representation in this book too :) I felt like personally for me the story got very long and drawn out! I felt like when i got to 50% into the arc I hadn’t really learned too much except a bit of background on the house and the MC :( I really wanted to love this book but It just didn’t do it for me honestly I felt like it was a very very slow burn book & it was one that I felt myself putting down & not thinking of the story really unless i was reading which for me personally I love when I’m reading a book & go put it down I continue to think about the story until i pick it up again!

I appreciate so much getting the opportunity to Arc this , I like to be real and honest about my reviews and personally this story was boring to me but just because I didn’t enjoy it don’t let it put you off because writing and stories are subjective , books i love you might not and vice versa :)

Was this review helpful?

This story definitely had good bones but ultimately it just didn't work for me. It felt like it was trying to have a grander, overarching meaning but it wasn't quite solidified enough for me to know what that meaning was. The body horror, however, was top notch. The protagonists were horribly grating and I skimmed a few sections of dialogue because I was cringing too hard, which really means the author succeeded in portraying realistic teens/young adults. I think ultimately the various strings established throughout the story didn't quite come together in the end, but I did enjoy the ride and especially liked the various POVs.

Was this review helpful?

Sincere thank you to net galley and the author for letting me read this early. This book is a genre in itself that we need more of.. cozy horror! So very good! I hope many others check this book out soon! It is very cozy and yet is definitely horror. The non-binary character in this story was done incredibly well. The therapist relationship in the story was healthy in a way I’ve not read before. The eating disorder references were spot on, but at least for me not super triggering. And this cozy horror book made me cry! I am so grateful I got the chance to read this!

Was this review helpful?

I really enjoyed this book. It gave me major Stranger Things / Mike Flanagan vibes. A small, creepy town with a threatening supernatural force that only a couple of teenagers can stop? Plus a haunted house? YES PLEASE!

I have to say, I really appreciated the mental illness, and LQBTQIA+ representations in this story. It did take me a while to get used to Ellis using ‘they/them’ pronouns especially when there was more than one character in the scene with them. But it didn’t take me out of the story.

I adored the eerie backdrop of the town. I could really envision it in my head and feel the tension through the book. All of the characters felt very genuine and real apart from Robyn (Ellis’ mother). I felt that she was a bit neglectful of Ellis. Even Ellis themselves don’t address Robyn as ‘mother’. I just felt like Robyn was there purely for a reason why they had to move back to the town.

I read this book in 2 or 3 sittings. It was very fast paced once you got into it. The story of how the house became to be the way it was, was a little confusing for me. In the sense that I couldn’t picture it visually. However, I felt that the story itself was told perfectly. The grief that made the house the way it is was heartbreaking.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone. Just be aware that the main character is recovering from an eating disorder.

*Thank you to NetGalley and ECW Press for letting me have early access to this book for an honest review.*

Was this review helpful?

When I saw the Mike Flannagan comparisons, I had to pick up this horror.

I did really love the queer paranormal vibe of this book; our MC Ellis was very interesting to follow and their mental health history really made their voice interesting and complex. The idea of a house feeding off a community was also compelling and creepy.

Unfortunately, I found a lot of the narrative to be quite young, especially for an 18-year-old main character. This book is listed as horror/fiction, but reads a lot more YA. On top of that, I struggled to really experience the horror. I didn’t feel gripped by the story and felt I was reading quite passively.

Was this review helpful?

This was a soft little story about a haunted house and the lives that touch it.

To start off, the tone of the book is very YA. It reads young, has a teenage protagonist, and follows a teen romance for much of the book.

The premise is interesting, and it’s a take on haunted houses that I haven’t seen before. But it wasn’t really my favorite, overall. The pacing was on the slower side, and the story felt very light. There are some harder topics, but they never felt as dense or fleshed out as I would have hoped. Also, it wasn’t as gory or dark as I was hoping.

I think readers who like YA, softer/lighter/slower horror, and queer protagonists will enjoy this.

All opinions are my own. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced copy in return for my honest review.

Was this review helpful?

An enjoyable YA horror fantasy. A move to a new home in Black Stone brings Ellis new challenges to an already complex life. Because as far as the locals are concerned the house has a past, a haunted past. And a haunted future. As Ellis tries to settle, and find friendship, Black Stone may be the place she needs to be, or maybe equally the person that Black Stone needs! Thank you to ECW Press and NetGalley for the ARC. The views expressed are all mine, freely given.

Was this review helpful?

Thank you NetGalley and publisher for giving me an arc in exchange for an honest review.

Withered is not a traditional haunted house story. The author did a great job of making a new and fun story out of a debatably overdone topic. With that being said, this book reads as YA, both in the writing style and the character voices. By no means would I ever classify this as an adult horror.

It does some things well and other things not so well.

Pros:
This is a multi-POV story that only had 1 well-developed POV. Ellis is 18 years old and is the main character of the story. Ellis is nonbinary, asexual, and is recovering from an ED. A lot is going on with this character but it all feels authentic and none of these things are used to further the horror plot. It feels like a really good/ safe representation of these things (note - I don’t identify as any of these identities nor have I experienced an ED so it’s not my place to declare this good representation but it did not appear as problematic to me).

Ellis’s mother is supportive and understanding and the relationship Ellis has with Robyn is refreshing. It’s always refreshing to see a positive family dynamic in a horror story. There is a lot of diversity in this book and I appreciate the author for doing that.

Quinn may be my favorite character. She is funny, full of wit, and her raw emotion really connected with me. Her partnership with Ellis was so trusting and intentional. I applaud the author for this display of true connection. The dialogue was amazing, I laughed so many times.

The emotion is real. I cried some for sure.

Ellis’s relationship with their therapist. It’s not included much but the time you do get to see them interact, its a great representation.

The ending was realistic.

Cons:
Again, this reads like YA. All of the main characters could easily be in high school and nothing would change. They are written in a way that makes them come across as adolescents.


For the other POVs…. useless. They were forced, a device to move the story forward rather than to add value. Honestly just lazy writing. Random character POVs would pop up 1-2 times out of nowhere and we’re just supposed to accept that.

The sporadic placement of these chapters was interesting. It took away from the story to be navigating the random POV chapter and mid-chapter jumps and random time jumps. Half the time, the POVs seemed to only be there to give an eery vibe to Ellis’s house. These POVs also impacted the pacing.

I kinda touched on this before but I’m stating it again because it was painful. Things felt unnecessarily out of order and I absolutely hate when books change POV in the middle of the chapter. There were so many parts of this book that dragged and I think if the author put more effort into making Ellis’s POV (+1) work in delivering this information to the reader, it could have really helped the flow of the story. Instead, you get a random midchapter insert from characters that mean nothing. It does not add any razzle or dazzle to the story. I honestly put the book down so many times because of this. If you don’t mind this, maybe you’ll have a better experience than I but I’ll say it again. It’s just lazy writing.

The declaration of love after like a month 💀

Overall, I didn’t hate the book. I don’t foresee myself picking up another book by Wilmot but I’m not mad that I read the book.

Was this review helpful?

The house on Cherry Lane has a reputation for being an evil house; cursing those who dare to live there. Because of this, twenty-five years ago, Tara Sweet tried to kill the house before it brought further damage to her family and town. Since then, she has been a resident at a long-term mental health facility.

The house on Cherry Lane also has a reputation for being occupied by something that cannot be explained; something more benevolent. Something that has kept the death rate of Black Stone abnormally low, while the surrounding towns have unnaturally high death rates (“It’s our protection, not our condemnation”). How can one house garner two such divergent opinions?

Ellis is a teen who moves into the house on Cherry Lane with their mother, Robyn, after the death of their father. Robyn grew up in Black Stone, and is familiar with the history of the house and its relationship with the townsfolk. However, this doesn’t stop her from moving there without telling Ellis about her own history with the house. This is an odd decision considering the fragility of Ellis’ mental health. They are still grieving the death of their father, suffers from anorexia, and is coming to terms with their sexual identity. Robyn’s job keeps her away from the house which puts pressure on Ellis to deal with finding their way in a new town where everyone has an opinion on their house and, consequently, Ellis. With the help of a few Black Stonians, Ellis confronts the house and their own mental health.

The haunted house trope works well when mental health is one of the horror themes. A home is thought to be a domestic ideal where one can feel safe, happy, and at peace. However, when the space becomes sinister, there is no safety, happiness, or peace. The haunted house trope—usually a feminist theme—works well with LGBQT+ themes. Trauma is manifested in the house, and often, when the issues of the protagonist are brought out into the open, the house becomes less sinister (maybe even a kindred spirit).

Ellis becomes obsessed with finding answers to who the house really is: evil or benevolent. Can they resolve this puzzle and find safety, happiness, and peace?

The lack of maternal care (Robyn comes across as a friendly acquaintance, not a mother)--considering the upheaval to Ellis’s life—seemed to me to be a way for the writer to keep her out of the story. She is there to make a connection to the town. To drive the disconnect between the two, Ellis calls her Robyn, not mom. Also, the use of the them/their pronouns was overused and—at times—confusing; especially at times when Ellis is involved with another character. The writing style often made it hard to discern if the they/them was for Ellis or both of them. This could have been easily avoided if Ellis was identified just as Ellis.

I enjoyed this book, and found Ellis to be a very believable and sympathetic character. The explanation about the house and its paranormal development was novel to me, fitting into the themes of mental heath and grief perfectly.

I would like to thank ECW Press and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.

Was this review helpful?

Really enjoyed this book and I can't wait to pick up other books by the author. Really creepy, but equally wonderful and fast paced.

Was this review helpful?