Hush, Hush would be better as a horror novel. It’s the story of Nora, who is sexually harassed in school while her teacher stands by and allows it to happen. Then she learns that several supernatural beings are trying to kill her. There’s no one she can trust, not even her best friend. Becca Fitzpatrick sets all of this against a gloomy, rainy Maine backdrop. Spooky stuff, right? The problem is, it’s not intended primarily as horror but as paranormal romance — and Nora’s love interest, Patch, is both her harasser and one of the people with designs on her life. But more about Patch in a bit.
The beginning of Hush, Hush is inauspicious. It’s unoriginal, for one; it’s that “assigned to work together in class” beginning that Stephenie Meyer popularized in Twilight and which has become cliché in the wave of novels influenced by Twilight. And the class itself is just bizarre. Nora and Patch are placed together during a sex ed unit in biology class, and Fitzpatrick’s depiction of it seems like some conspiracy theorist’s idea of what goes on in sex ed (namely, a lot of teacher-sanctioned sexual harassment). Certainly when I was in high school there was a lot less innuendo and a lot more dry terminology — Corpus luteum! Vas deferens! Oooh, baby! — and gory descriptions of all the diseases one can catch.
But then sometimes this same teacher just teaches regular old non-creepy biology lessons, interspersed between the “sexy” classes. In fact, most of the characters in Hush, Hush seem inconsistent, and they don’t act like real people do. Nora’s best friend Vee swings back and forth between being a normal friend and being an absolutely terrible friend. In nearly the same breath, Vee tells Nora that Patch is scary and dangerous and that Nora could take some pointers from him on how to live her life. She also encourages Nora to hang out with someone who has physically threatened her. There’s supernatural mind-mojo behind at least some of this, but it doesn’t make it any less baffling while you’re in the middle of it. Another annoying character is the popular cheerleader Marcie Millar, who is assembled entirely from mean-girl stereotypes and actually tells people all about how popular she is (does anyone really do this?).
But by far the biggest problem in Hush, Hush is Patch as the romantic lead. He has dastardly plans for Nora throughout much of the book, and he’s only less creepy than the villains because he changes his mind in midstream. When Nora learns what he had planned, she’s angry at first but takes it in stride far too quickly. I’d have been able to stomach Patch more easily if he’d stayed a villain and Nora had opposed him as she did the others.
All this said, I’m going to rate Hush, Hush higher than some of the other books I’ve read of this type. Fitzpatrick does create a genuinely spooky atmosphere and the plot gave me some real scares, which is something a lot of these YA paranormals have been unable to do. I just wish the love interest wasn’t as scary as the antagonist — or that Fitzpatrick had gone all-out horror and actually made him an antagonist.