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4.3 12
by Adele Griffin

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When 17-year-old Jamie arrives on the idyllic New England island of Little Bly to work as a summer au pair, she is stunned to learn of the horror that precedes her. Seeking the truth surrounding a young couple's tragic deaths, Jamie discovers that she herself looks shockingly like the dead girl—and that she has a disturbing ability to sense the two ghosts. Why


When 17-year-old Jamie arrives on the idyllic New England island of Little Bly to work as a summer au pair, she is stunned to learn of the horror that precedes her. Seeking the truth surrounding a young couple's tragic deaths, Jamie discovers that she herself looks shockingly like the dead girl—and that she has a disturbing ability to sense the two ghosts. Why is Jamie's connection to the couple so intense? What really happened last summer at Little Bly? As the secrets of the house wrap tighter and tighter around her, Jamie must navigate the increasingly blurred divide between the worlds of the living and the dead.

Brilliantly plotted, with startling twists, here is a thrilling page-turner from the award-winning Adele Griffin.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Following the heartbreaking revelation that her secret relationship with a teacher is over, Jamie allows her mother to convince her to become an au pair for the summer as an emotional distraction. Unable to cope normally, the teen pops prescription pills pilfered from her family members indiscriminately throughout her time on Little Bly. Already haunted by the spirits of two relatives who took their own lives, Jamie falls prey to the restless spirits of her charge's previous au pair and her boyfriend who died the previous summer. As the teen becomes more and more disoriented, unsure of what's real and what's in her head, her new friends become concerned for her mental health. Full of mystery, spectral encounters, and disorienting lapses in time, this is a ghost story that melds seamlessly with one of a mental breakdown. A stunning and unexpected revelation brings Jamie's story to a startling conclusion. An engaging thriller with wide appeal.—Jessica Miller, New Britain Public Library, CT
Publishers Weekly
Griffin (The Julian Game) offers a modernized version of Henry James's The Turn of the Screw that stars Jamie, a young au pair who is fast becoming a prescription drug addict. Shortly after arriving at Little Bly Island to care for 11-year-old Isa (who is still deeply disturbed by the death of her former au pair, Jessie), Jamie is surprised by the return of Isa's older brother, Milo, who "got tossed" from summer camp. Living in a household ruled by a cantankerous housekeeper and frequently disrupted by Milo's antics, Jamie turns to stolen pills. She becomes less and less sure of what is real, coming to believe that the ghosts of Jessie and the au pair's boyfriend are haunting her ("The unrest of their death was defiant, it beckoned from the corners"). Sure to please fans of gothic romance, Griffin's tale adds new psychological dimensions to James's classic novella as it delves into Jamie's pill-popping, her family's history of mental illness, and her unrequited love for a teacher who brushed her off. Eerily intriguing from first page to last. Ages 12–up. (May)
From the Publisher
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2011:
"Griffin interweaves subtle commentary about social class, drug abuse and mental illness into this marvelous homage while winding the suspense knob all the way to 11...A contemporary reboot that does the original proud."

Publishers Weekly, March 21, 2011:
"Sure to please fans of gothic romance, Griffin's tale adds new psychological dimensions to James's classic novella [The Turn of the Screw]...Eerily intriguing from first page to last."

The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, May 2011:
"[Will] gratify those seeking a full-on contemporary gothic (or a dynamite curricular pairing with The Turn of the Screw, to which the title may possibly be a reference), and the rest will simply enjoy a summer of adventure, gentle romance, and near-lethal disturbance."

School Library Journal, June 2011:
"Full of mystery, spectral encounters, and disorienting lapses in time, this is a ghost story that melds seamlessly with one of a mental breakdown...An engaging thriller with wide appeal."

A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy (SLJ.com blog), June 21, 2011:
"Because Tighter spooked me. Because the twists and turns kept me guessing — and surprised me even when I guessed them. Because the ending made me see the book in an entirely different light, making me reread it immediately. This is one of my Favorite Books Read in 2011."

Small Review, January 28, 2011:
"Adele is a National Book Award finalist and it is easy to see why. Tightly plotted, well paced, and beautifully written, Tighter pulled me in from the very beginning and, days after having finished, it still hasn’t let me go...I highly recommend it to readers looking for a good ghost story, a contemporary read, a classic retelling, or a creepy Gothic tale. This is the first book I have read by Adele Griffin, but it won’t be the last."

Children's Literature - Denise Daley
Jamie's dead uncles silently appear before her. They seem to be pulling her in tighter to them. Additionally, Jamie is trying to mend her heart that was broken when her young high-school teacher rejected her. Jamie tries to block the visions and fix her broken heart by self-medicating. In addition to popping the pills prescribed for her back injury, Jamie will swallow just about any pill that she can find. Maybe the summer job as a caretaker to young Isa on the tiny, upscale island of Little Bly will provide the escape that Jamie needs. Upon arriving in Little Bly, however, Jamie learns that the tiny island has ghosts of its own. Two teenaged lovers tragically died there just the summer before, and they begin appearing to Jamie. Jamie becomes determined to uncover the circumstances surrounding their death but the annoying housekeeper and Isa's antagonistic older brother make the task increasingly difficult. Soon Jamie herself is pulled to near death in her efforts to discover the truth. Are the ghosts' real and trying to communicate a message to Jamie? Or could something even more unthinkable be going on? This compelling and well-written novel will keep readers as anxious to uncover the truth as Jamie herself is. Reviewer: Denise Daley
Children's Literature - Ellen Welty
Seventeen-year-old Jamie is spending the summer in the island community of Little Bly in New England following a harrowing year in high school. At the suggestion of her mother to get over her emotional crisis following the end of a complicated relationship with a teacher, she has been hired by an old friend of her mother's to be a companion to his eleven-year-old daughter. After her arrival, Jamie discovers that she bears a striking resemblance to the child's nanny from the previous summer, a girl who died along with her boyfriend in a plane wreck. Even more unnerving, she begins seeing the dead couple at times when no one else sees them. Jamie had begun taking prescription drugs in order to help her sleep before she left for Little Bly. She has a stash of the pills with her that she took from her parent's medicine cabinet and her dependence on them starts to increase as her perceptions of reality become more and more distorted. Readers are unsure what is actually real and what is imaginary since the narrative is in Jamie's voice and from her unreliable point-of-view. When the book is finished readers will want to re-read it immediately to see the clues that they missed the first time. Griffin is a master at the game of misdirecting her readers' attention while she casually slips in important information. Loosely based on Henry James' novel The Turn of the Screw, this will have young adult fans of psychological thrillers looking for more like it. Reviewer: Ellen Welty
Kirkus Reviews

Drug addiction and tainted love mess with the mind of a befuddled au pair in this creepy update of Henry James' The Turn of the Screw.

Seventeen-year-old Jamie is secretly treating a broken heart with her parents' prescriptions when she leaves for a dream babysitting job in a swanky summer community off of Providence, R.I. After a teacher spurns her schoolgirl crush, Jamie sinks into a funk that she hopes will be lifted by focusing on sweet 11-year-old Isa. But once in place, Jamie is tormented by gossip of last summer's nanny, a reckless girl named Jessie, and her boyfriend, Peter, who died in a plane crash. Through her pill-induced haze, Jamie begins seeing the pair everywhere and hears Peter's vengeful voice coming out of Isa's brother Milo's mouth. Then a confrontation with some of the local rich kids sends Jamie spinning off to the same cliff where she first saw the dead lovers take flight. Who or what is driving her to follow their fatal path? Griffin interweaves subtle commentary about social class, drug abuse and mental illness into this marvelous homage while winding the suspense knob all the way to 11. Whether or not the ghosts are real, Jamie's alienation and addiction are, and readers will feel her growing claustrophobia at each turn of the page.

A contemporary reboot that does the original proud. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sold by:
Random House
Sales rank:
760L (what's this?)
File size:
3 MB
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt


The last thing I did before I left home was steal pills.

"Wait!" I raised my finger and did the oops smile, then sprinted back inside while Mom stayed in the car to take me to the train station. First to Teddy's bathroom to swipe painkillers--we were an athletic family, prone to sports-related injury--and then to my parents' stash. Mom's allergies, Dad's insomnia.

Maybe fifty, all in. A good haul, but would it be enough?

Pills were new for me. I'd been sucked in innocently enough, after a track hurdle that ripped some tissue. A major lower-lumbar strain, the doctor had diagnosed. When the pain persisted, I'd started therapy at the Y, which just became another thing to skip. And pill filching was easier.

Now here it was late June and I wasn't an addict, not at all, but the heat packs and aspirin hadn't been getting it done for weeks.

The pills also helped me not think too hard about Mr. Ryan. Sean. I'd called him Sean, a couple of times, in the end. And I was so tired of thinking about him. I gripped a small fantasy that the moment I set foot on Little Bly, he'd evaporate from my memory.

Mom honked. I wavered in the doorway of my bedroom, so safe and familiar. I shouldn't be leaving home. I was worse than anyone knew--not my parents, not my best friend, Maggie. Maybe I needed more than pills, but I'd already swiped such a haul.

I stepped inside, gravitating toward my bookshelf. What to take? What would help? The book of poems Tess gave me last birthday that I'd skimmed and liked. My old Mother Goose's Nursery Rhymes, which I'd read so many times in childhood that the cover was unhinging from its spine.

On impulse, I popped them both into my satchel. Not much, but comforting, a double shield to protect me from homesickness. Then I stood, helplessly searching--what more had I forgotten? Surely there was something else, something better--before the horn jounced me from my trance.

"Everyone falls in love with Little Bly. The beaches, the houses." Mom had been nervous-chatting the whole ride. Now we stood by the tracks, waiting for the train to pull in. "This'll be so relaxing! I wish I could come along. At the very least, Jamie, I bet it will be therapeutic for you."

I nodded and yawned. These past weeks, Mom had been big into telling me what Little Bly would be "at the very least." I'm not sure either of us had a clue what it might be at the very most. But a yawn or a "you said it" were my best conversation stoppers in this summer of limited energy. Not that anything was stopping Mom.

All I really knew, at the very least, was that I'd be farther from Maplewood than I'd ever been, outside a chorus trip to Vienna three years ago, in eighth grade.

"A nice change for you, Jamie."

I nodded again and flattened my hand against my satchel, where my Ziploc bag was stashed. Nice change or not, it was happening. Mom had moved pretty quickly, too, rearranging my life one night while she and Dad were out at a dinner party. She'd made it seem like luck, but her secret motive--her trial kick out of the nest for her youngest, her hang-around-the-house kid--wasn't lost on me.

And I couldn't discount that this was my dullest summer on record. Maggie was off with her family touring a handful of national parks, all of them gone cold turkey off wireless networks as they hopscotched from Appalachia to Yosemite in their TrailManor RV. The twins were gone, too--they'd left right after graduation. Teddy, for college football training in Orlando, while Tess was in Croatia teaching English in a one-room schoolhouse. She sent postcards that told us the weather (broiling hot, every day) and what she was eating (beef on a stick, every day). We stuck the cards on the fridge next to printouts Teddy emailed of himself as a dot in a helmet.

So maybe it was my turn to be a body in motion. Specifically, a blur on the Jersey Transit to Penn Station, then all aboard Amtrak's Northeast Corridor bound for Providence, Rhode Island, where I'd catch another local train and then a ferry to the island of Little Bly. My last major trip this week had been my hour at the Y, and then into town to drop off some movie rentals. I felt unsteady and out of shape, and maybe not totally prepared for the direct thrust of a voyage out.

As the train approached, I could feel myself collapsing. No, no, this was a bad idea. I was scared to be jerked out of my orbit like this, I wasn't steady in my head. But I couldn't find the right words to explain any of it to my mother--especially since she was so hopeful that Little Bly was my cure.

A cheery smile, a confident bound up the train steps. I went for the window seat so I could wave as I watched Mom turn miniature. And then with sweating fingers, I sank back and took a pill from the baggie, swallowing it dry and tasting its bitter silt in the back of my throat. Okay, okay. One step at a time, and I'd be okay.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

ADELE GRIFFIN is the acclaimed author of many books for young readers, including Sons of Liberty and Where I Want to Be, both National Book Award finalists. She is also the author of Picture the Dead, The Julian Game, and the Witch Twins and Vampire Island middle-grade series. Adele lives with her husband and young daughter in Brooklyn, New York.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Tighter 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
romancemistress More than 1 year ago
A troubled young teen with an unfortunate reliance on filched prescription drugs and a broken heart fills her summer by taking a babysitting job in a beach town that doesn't accept outsiders. In trying to help her young charge, Isa, recover from the tragic loss of her former babysitter and the girl's boyfriend in a flying accident the previous summer, Jamie comes to realize that all is not well in the beautiful mansion called Skylark. The spirit of the house is not at rest...and it will not let Jamie rest either. Griffin has penned an incredibly spooky psychological ghost story that will hopefully ease teen readers into Henry James "The Turn of the Screw." The characterizations of Jamie, Isa, Connie, Sebastian, the mad Katherine, Pete, Jessie, and certainly Milo make a lasting impression for such a slender volume. I highly recommend it...but with a nightlight.
kittydanza More than 1 year ago
TIGHTER, by Adele Griffin, is a modern re-telling of The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. I was not familiar with this story prior to the book but from some research I found the similarities of the plot within Tighter but Griffin made her own fabulous twist to it. I was quite shocked in the beginning of the story when it was made known that Jamie was a 'pill-popper'. I'd yet to see that in YA literature but I was definitely interested to see how that would come into play in the book. I didn't really connect with Jamie as the narrator at all. But by the end I understood that that was probably the point. I was torn back and forth wondering if what she discovered was true or just a part of her confusion while on various unprescribed medications. I loved all the characters in the book in their own special way. I felt that each of them held a secret that I was anxious to uncover. I'm a big fan of Griffin's and this book only added to my love for this author. Her prose is beautiful and I felt that I was inside the book trying to discover the mystery myself. Although horror/ghost stories are not normally my thing, I did enjoy this book and I am definitely going to check out the story that this was loosely based off of. Cover note: How awesome/scary is this cover? When I first saw it I was determined to read it to understand the significance.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
KrisSpor More than 1 year ago
Adele Griffin showed off her creative talent when she wrote Tighter. I started Tighter hoping for an enjoyable, thriller to entertain me... and boy, could I have been more wrong? I have read several other reviews that state Adele's novel is based on the short story The Turn of the Screw, I have never read The Turn of the Screw so can neither agree nor disagree. Tighter has a little of many things: suspense, romance, adventure, paranormal, and more. Adele Griffin's characters are brilliantly created and take on a life of their own, Jamie the sarcastic, pill popping teenager, innocent Isa who's still searching for who she really is, her her vain and flirtatious brother Milo to the ever amusing, and lisp impaired housekeeper Connie. Readers shouldn't bother making predictions of what will happen, reader is never quite sure what is reality and what's all in Jamie's head. Tighter is filled with twists and surprises that just jump off the pages and leave readers fumbling to find the truth. Adele Griffins Tighter is not the hacker/slasher horror, but a great psychological which are sometimes better. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who loves a good horror that will stay with you even when it ends.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Creepy, lyrical and un-put-down-able. This is a great summer read--with an ending the packs a surprisingly, satisfying punch.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was so filled up with twists and turns, the end was sooo unpredictable for me. But overall it was a great book. I would highly reccommend it. :D
eheinlen More than 1 year ago
I simply adored this book. It hooked me right from the first sentence. I couldn't put it down. Great, easy-to-read writing style, wonderful characters, great plot points. All around very enjoyable. I highly recommend this book.
Cougar_H More than 1 year ago
I liked this book because I like the paranormal and ghost stories. I would highly recommend this book for readers who enjoy hauntings or ghost stories. I¿m a teen that does not enjoy reading. But this book kept my attention and kept me awake in class instead of reading the boring school stories. Jamie, who is a 17 year-old girl, is babysitting 11 year old Isa. While Jamie is babysitting Isa she starts seeing two kids that died in a car accident almost one year ago. She starts seeing the two ghosts in places that Isa usually hangs out. But could it be the random pills Jamie¿s taking that she got from her mom and dads cupboard that¿s making her see the ghosts? To answer this question¿you¿ll have to read the book to find out!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
intothemorningJR More than 1 year ago
Tighter is a great little creepy re-imagining of Henry James's The Turn of the Screw. If you've read the original, don't worry, it won't spoil you for reading Tighter because, while some of the plot points are similar, this is a horse of an entirely different color. Jamie, who from the beginning has quite a few secrets from the reader, is unhappily being sent to a "toity" island to "summer" as an au pair for a young girl named Flora who's father is away on business. Jamie has suffered a recent heartbreak and hopes taking this job on the insistence of her mother, not to mention the handful of pills she grabs before she leaves home, that she will be able to overcome the memories and hurt before school starts in the fall. She's in for less than a relaxing summer when she begins to feel an unsettling presence in the house, Flora's smart alec brother Miles returns home after being kicked out of summer camp, and she learns the previous au pair, Jenny, died in a tragic accident with her boyfriend the previous summer. The characters were all very colorful. From the very first page I had a good idea of who the narrator, Jamie, is and what her thoughts on life are. She is the most developed of the characters, which is natural since it's from her viewpoint that we see the rest of the characters. And we are privy to her innermost thoughts and feelings. The characters of the children, Flora & Miles, were really interesting to me because there was always this strange feeling that they might have multiple personalities. Something that was picked up by others around them and mentioned (not a flaw in the writing). I completely disliked Connie, the housekeeper, but I was supposed to and her ridiculous lisp only added to that dislike throughout the story. And what would a YA book be without a bit of a love/obsession triangle. Though this one is pretty unusual considering one of the guys is not exactly alive. Ms. Griffin took the base ideas of her characters from the original and really layered and re-worked them into a way that makes them very relevant and interesting for the YA reader. There was very little in the way of plot; this story is very character driven. So what we get is a string of personal interactions between characters and the internal struggles of the narrator who strives to understand why she continues to be drawn to and into the drama of Jenny's life before her untimely death. There's an encroaching sense of claustrophobia as the book progresses which adds to the atmosphere of ghostly mysteries and possible pill-induced hallucinations. All of the elements of this book contrive to pull the reader directly into Jamie's head to experience every chilling moment along with her. This is a delicious novella, well-written and well-charactered. I found little I disliked other than the author's device of writing out Connie's lisp in the dialogue which made it difficult to read sometimes. Well, that and what the mystery boiled down to in the end (which may or may not disappoint other readers but I saw it coming). Regardless of the ending, it was a fast, fun read that I recommend to anyone who enjoys a vague gothic ghost story feel to your summer paranormal books.
FeatheredQuillBookReviews More than 1 year ago
This thrilling page-turner is actually a take on the incredible writing of Henry James and his creation, The Turn of the Screw. In this gripping supernatural story, the audience is introduced to a teenage girl by the name of Jamie. Jamie has an interesting 'side' to her personality. She not only has become addicted to pills for pain - but pretty much any pill she can get her hands on in order to calm herself down and make her feel better. Jamie also has a tendency to see all of her dead relatives in her bedroom when she goes to sleep at night. She becomes a bit terrified when she sees the "suicide victims" that her family tree claims, and wants nothing more than to be left alone. The summer has come and her siblings are off in the world doing the things they love to do. The trip Jamie has to look forward to is a train ride that will take her into a truly posh, wealthy world. Her mother, once upon a time, was a part of this high-class society and dated a man who has now hired Jamie to come and be his daughter's au pair for the summer. Jamie doesn't want to go, but her Mom wants to get her out of the house to hopefully help break Jamie's depression. She also quite likes the fact that her old boyfriend is part of her world again. So Jamie heads onto the train, and when she steps off she is faced with a completely foreign location that is filled with powerful wealthy people. She is brought to a house called Skylark, which is beyond enormous and stunning, yet is referred to as a summer cottage. Connie meets her at the train and goes over the rules with Jamie. Connie is "in charge" at the house and will be a big part of Jamie's life. Not only is this woman snotty, but she has a horrific speech impediment that drives Jamie crazy. When Jamie meets her charge, a beautiful young girl named Isa, and runs into Isa's rebel brother, Miles, who is supposed to be away at camp, but was kicked out for being bad - Jamie's summer takes off like a shot. She not only is thrown in with people she doesn't understand, but a secret is revealed to Jamie about the death of the last au pair from the previous summer. Ghosts, secrets, visions - everything comes out of the woodwork within these incredible pages, making the reader wonder what exactly is real and what is simply a damaged soul who is crying out for Jamie to hear them in order to finally get the justice they deserve. The author has done an incredible job of taking supernatural pathways and combining them with a real-life murder tale that will keep readers up far into the night. Quill Says: Great writing, a fantastic plot, and unforgettable characters that would make Henry James extremely proud.