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Review–Must Love Black by Kelly McClymer

Click here to buy Must Love Black

Rating 4/5*

Published January 2011

Philippa’s father just remarried, years after her mother died in a tragic car wreck. So she’s relieved to have a summer job to escape to. She’s to nanny ten year old twin girls at a mansion (turned spa) on the cliffs of Bar Harbor, Maine. The ad specified must love black, but that’s no problem for Philippa, who lives in black.

The mansion (spa) is not quite what it seems. Philippa is confined to the “domain” of the twins, with a rigorous schedule that includes mandatory “fun” time. However, fun must never bring them into contact with the guests. They almost never see the twins’ father, and when they do, it’s almost never without his business partner, Lady Buena Verde who seems intent on keeping the dad away from his daughter. More, did Philippa really see a ghost? Are the mysterious goings on a ghost or just Philippa’s overactive imagination, spurred on by the gothic novel her mother wrote?

McClymer uses snippets from Manor of Dark Dreams, the book by Philippa’s mother at the start of each chapter to help set the tone and act as meta commentary. It’s a device used to good advantage, and the snippets are tantalizing enough to want to read it (or you can read Jane Eyre, which Manor of Dark Dreams is clearly modeled after).

The characters are mostly well done. The twins are generally treated as a singular unit until the introduction of the pet goat, Misty Gale. I wish we could’ve seen more differentiation between the two. Mr. Pertweath evolves over the course of the book. Philippa’s character arc is more about bringing the girls and their father together than making her more interested in or sympathetic toward her father or interested in giving her stepmother a chance–but I think that’s pretty true to form for a sixteen year old.

The supernatural elements of the book are much more subtle than I had expected, given the flap copy, but are present. But if you are looking for a full blown ghost story, this isn’t it–the supernatural is more of a secondary or tertiary storyline.

It’s a fun, easy read for YA readers.