Creature of the Night by Kate Thompson
Bobby knows exactly why his mother has moved his family from Dublin to Clare, and he's not happy about it. She wants him to straighten out, to stop running with the lads, to stop stealing and doing drugs and destroying cars. In other words, to stop doing everything that makes his hopeless life worth living.
Bobby doesn't plan on sticking around long--just long enough to steal a car and get himself back to Dublin. But there's something odd going on in their house. The previous tenant disappeared under mysterious circumstances. The family that used to live there left under an odd scandal of murder. The family down the road warned them to leave out milk and cake for "the fairies", and now Bobby's little brother can't stop talking about the little woman in the kitchen.
As Bobby finds himself getting more involved in Clare, and more frightened by the odd circumstances, he realizes that he may have to make a choice that will determine the course of his future--and the course of the rest of his life.
This book is an exercise in atmosphere, mood and tone. Every time I picked this up to continue reading, I sank seamlessly back into the gritty hopelessness of Bobby's Ireland. Bobby is a deliberately unlikeable character--he steals--from other people, from his mother, from people who are trying to help him--without a second thought, he is harsh to everyone in his life, and he is generally entirely selfish and self-centered. He's exactly the sort of character I usually have a lot of trouble caring about. And yet within a couple of chapters, I was in Bobby's head, I understood the painful place he was coming from, and I felt very strongly for him.
The trouble is, the book is presented as fantasy, and it just isn't. That's not a problem with the book per se, but it certainly affected how I came to it. I was expecting a supernatural explanation, and the answer we received--while extremely creepy, and very satisfying--is entirely natural (well, sort of.) I actually like it better, that everything works without needing to plumb into the supernatural--but because I was expecting fantasy/horror, I felt a little let down by the conclusion on first read. It's an interesting question, because classifying it as nonparanormal would defeat the deliberate misdirection of the book.
I also found that the plotline about the creature of the night really took a backseat to the much more compelling--both to me, and obviously to Kate Thompson, because she spent much more time, energy and care on it--plotline about Bobby's own growth and development. There was something immensely satisfying about watching Bobby grow--really grow--from a self-centered child into someone who acknowledges that the rest of the world exists, and not just for him to play with and destroy. Bobby's journey is impressive, and this book is worth reading for that alone. I just wonder if it wouldn't reach more people and have more success if the hint of supernatural hadn't been left out altogether, and this book had been shelved in general YA fiction.