Lois Murphy, You’ve Let Them In, Transit Lounge Publishing, April 2021, 256 pp., RRP $16.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781925760699
Scott is in shock when his family – his father Leo, sister Natalie, the twins, and their eccentric stepmother Sally – move to a rundown old house on the outskirts of town. The garden is a menacing jungle that refuses to be tamed. An ancient gnome in its midst supposedly stands guard against lurking secrets, much to Scott’s disgust and Sally’s delight. When strange things start occurring and the creatures from the trees begin to invade the house, Scott must face the peril of an unknown force that threatens to turn their world upside down.
A fine first outing from Australian author Murphy, You’ve Let Them In gives us a blend of family drama, humour and horror.
Scott is the central character and the book is written in the first person, from his point of view. The narrative veers from the quite serious elements of family drama, to comical interactions between Scott and the garden gnome, to genuine horror in its description of the things that lurk at the bottom of the garden, and the nightmares they give to Scott. This makes it a little uneven at times – we might just be getting used to Scott expressing how he feels when recalling his mother, and then he might go and have an amusing conversation with the garden gnome, and then he’ll have a quite horrible nightmare described in very scary terms. Still, the writing is engaging and Murphy does a good job in bringing the reader along with Scott on his journey.
The scary parts sort of reminded me of the nightmares I used to have when I was a kid, which brings me to my next point. The media release that came with the book described it as “great spooky fun” for middle-grade readers aged 9-12. I respectfully disagree. The spookiness is not fun – it’s genuinely scary. If Murphy was going for “fun” she missed the mark – the book needs to be at least one age group higher in bookstores. The main character is 13 going on 14. I wouldn’t give it to anyone younger than that to read (my own son is almost 10 years old, and I think if he read this he wouldn’t sleep for a week).
All up it was an enjoyable read and one that kids in their early teens and above will engage with and enjoy.
Reviewed by Christian Price