Helen Grant is one of the few YA authors to have gotten her novels reviewed by the mainstream newspapers - The Guardian, The Times, etc. have given her glowing reviews you'll find spotted across the back cover of her books. This unusual sight made me pick up The Glass Demon, and I am pleased to report that the blurbs were right. Helen Grant is pretty fantastic.
Grant took a risk when writing The Glass Demon - even though the novel is narrated by an English girl, it is set in Germany and the majority of the dialogue is in German. (That is, fake!German that we read as English.) Jumping between languages, and all the complications that arise because of it, is part of everyday life for Lin. As someone who grew up bilingual, I adored finally reading a novel in which the protagonist had two languages to choose from. It's unusual in YA fiction - hell, it's unusual in adult fiction too!
Then there's atmosphere - something The Glass Demon had in spades. It is set in a small, creepy town in the backwoods of Germany - complete with gothic ruins and forests that the Brothers Grimm grew up in. To that Grant added a series of terrifying deaths and a demonic legend, all written in a light, suspenseful style... the book is scary yet utterly captivating.
As for Lin? Well, she's actually rather ruthless. I simultaneously loathed her and loved her as she made both brilliant and incredibly stupid decisions. In short, this girl was as realistic as they come - she didn't fall head-over-heels for the "love interest", she had wildly inappropriate thoughts about priests, and had a family that took the fun out of dysfunctional.
And then there's the ending... which just made the book for me. It left room for interpretation while leaving no room for a sequel. In short? Fan-bloody-tastic.
Bottom line? The Glass Demon is a spooky, atmospheric, captivating read - if you are looking for an excellent standalone YA novel, look no further.