The woods were insane in the dark, terrifying and magical at the same time. But best of all were the stars, which trumpeted their light into the misty dark. Castella Cresswell and her five siblings—Hannan, Casper, Mortimer, Delvive, and Jerusalem— know what it's like to be different. For years, their world has been confined to their ramshackle family home deep in the woods of upstate New York. They abide by the strict rule of God, whose messages come directly from their father. Slowly, Castley and her siblings start to test the boundaries of the laws that bind them. But, at school, they're still the freaks they've always been to the outside world. Marked by their plain clothing. Unexplained bruising. Utter isolation from their classmates. That is, until Castley is forced to partner with the totally irritating, totally normal George Gray, who offers her a glimpse of a life filled with freedom and choice. Castley's world rapidly expands beyond the woods she knows so well and the beliefs she once thought were the only truths. There is a future waiting for her if she can escape her father's grasp, but Castley refuses to leave her siblings behind. Just as she begins to form a plan, her father makes a chilling announcement: the Cresswells will soon return to their home in heaven. With time running out on all of their lives, Castley must expose the depth of her father's lies. The forest has buried the truth in darkness for far too long. Castley might be their last hope for salvation.
Debut author Wass fashions a haunting family portrait centered on the power of belief. After a lifetime of hearing that the Cresswell family constitutes the "only pure people left on earth," 16-year-old Castley begins to suspect that her controlling and abusive father is not a prophet of God. With a dilapidated house, a neglectful mother, and food running out, Castley and her five siblings contend with their parents' rigid rules along with a combination of fascination and invisibility in town and at school. When her father pronounces that "soon God will be calling us home," Castley seeks an escape. Befriending a fellow drama student and reaching out to a relative she hardly knows, Castley finds that those promising help are terrified as well. Wass deftly manages the distinct voices and personalities of the many Cresswells. The dark heart of the story, suggestive of incest and sibling torture, will move many readers to question, as Castley does, whether liberation from their "father's vision" is truly possible. Ages 14 up. Agency: Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency.