Mila has spent the past four years in the foster care system. Now that she’s turning 18, she can’t be placed with another foster family, so she’s stunned and humbled to receive a placement as an intern with a couple named Julia and Terry, who have raised dozens of children on their idyllic farm tucked between the mountains and the sea. Alongside two other interns, Mila will tutor the younger children and contribute to the daily workings of farm life, tending the crops, learning about flowers and taking harvests to the nearby farmers market.
Mila quickly becomes close to her student, 9-year-old Lee, beneath whose quiet demeanor lies a traumatic history. The two also bond over their shared distrust of the ghostly figures who seem to haunt the farm at night. The farm’s other residents seem to relish their mysterious presence, but Mila and Lee aren’t ready to welcome them in. Even as Mila settles into her new life, she worries that she doesn’t really belong on the farm. She becomes increasingly unsettled when disturbing tokens from her old life begin to show up on the doorstep of her cabin.
Watch Over Me is an unusual ghost story in which the ghosts are both metaphors and characters in their own right. Printz Medalist Nina LaCour (We Are Okay) effectively blends contemporary perspectives on psychological themes, including abuse, childhood trauma, guilt and grief, with a setting and a narrative that seem to exist somehow outside of time.
As the story opens, Mila is at the crossroads between childhood and adulthood. Her regrets over events in her youth and her longing to have had a more secure childhood like those Julia and Terry’s adoptees enjoy is poignant and palpable. Simultaneously, however, as her deepening relationship with Lee causes her to want to be the best teacher she can, Mila begins to craft a vision of her future that wouldn’t have been possible without the farm.
Richly atmospheric and both haunting and hopeful, Watch Over Me is a rewarding novel about a young woman on the brink of a new life.