Annotation: Hannah thinks that a weekend away with her boyfriend, Colin, is just what they need before he goes off to college. When she surprises him with a road trip to his family’s old vacation home on a remote lake, however, things don’t go according to plan.
Personal thoughts: As someone with a more than slight fear of the woods, I found myself utterly creeped out at various moments in this novel. I really admire Emma Carlson Berne’s ability to create such a spooky feeling in such a short story. I think this novel would make a great pick for a reluctant teen reader who wants something exciting but to the point. I would also recommend it to anyone who just likes a good, creepy read.
Plot summary: Hannah and her boyfriend, Colin, have been dating for a year, but she still cannot seem to open up to him completely. A self-proclaimed “queen of nerds,” Hannah can’t imagine why the gorgeous and popular Colin would like her, let alone tell her he loves her on a regular basis. Hannah wants nothing more than to be able to say those three words back to Colin, but something is keeping her from expressing how she feels. Now Colin is going away to college next week, leaving Hannah to finish her senior of high school wondering if he is going to fall in love with someone else. When Hannah learns that his family owns an old vacation home on a remote lake, she decides to take Colin on a surprise road trip: a getaway where she can truly be herself and let him know how she feels. When Hannah and Colin arrive at Pine House, however, things don’t go according to plan. Even though Colin’s family hasn’t been to the house in years, it looks as if someone was just there, with things scattered as if whoever it was left hastily. The closest town is 20 miles away, and is full of abandoned, broken down buildings. And Colin has begun to act strange, having bouts of rage and violence that shock Hannah. Was the trip to Pine House just what Hannah and Colin need to cement their relationship, or will it be the biggest mistake they have ever made?
Review: Creepy and atmospheric, this novel from veteran author Emma Carlson Berne is reminiscent of Stephen King’s The Shining while still being appropriate for a teen audience. The story is both short and uncomplicated, but manages to invoke a feeling of dread the moment the main character, Hannah, discovers an old photo of her boyfriend’s family vacation home. The author excels at enhancing this feeling of dread throughout most of the story, from the descriptions of the decrepit Pine House to the almost abandoned neighboring village of Oxtown. When Hannah’s boyfriend Colin begins to act strangely, the creepiness factor increases several notches, culminating in an exciting if slightly suspected conclusion. Apart from the mystery that drives the plot, there is another element to the story that will resonate with many teen readers: Hannah’s inability to tell her boyfriend that she loves him. The author does a good job of portraying this common problem, making both Hannah and Colin identifiable for readers who have been on both the giving and receiving ends of those three little words. Overall, Still Waters is a spooky and enjoyable read that many teens are sure to enjoy.
Reading level: Grade 7+
Similar titles: The Shining by Stephen King, After the Fire by Becky Citra, Tighter by Adele Griffin.
Themes: Relationships, vacation, mystery, love, possession.
Awards/Reviews: Positive reviews from School Library Journal and Kirkus.
Series Information: N/A
Discussion questions:- Why do you think Hannah couldn’t tell Colin that she loved him? Has that ever happened to you or someone you know?
- Do you think that it was a good idea for Hannah to surprise Colin with a trip to Pine House? Why or why not?
- Would you want to stay in Pine House for a weekend? Why or why not?
- What do you think was happening to Colin in the novel?