A Light Most Hateful

A LIGHT MOST HATEFUL by Hailey Piper.

Titan Books. p/b. £8.99.

Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins.

Chapel Hill. A scream, or did she imagine it? 18-year-old Olivia Abraham is on her way to work – the drive-through movie theatre – but arranged to stop on the way and pick up Sunflower, her best friend. Indeed, Sunflower was supposed to keep Olivia company tonight, but when Olivia arrived at the Mason House, only Sunflower’s mother was there. Not wanting to get into a conversation with Hazibel, Olivia had no choice but to head to work alone.

Olivia has always been an outsider here. Chapel Hill is not really her home. It is not where she grew up but a consequence of her relationship choice, one that her parents strongly disapproved of. The road led her here, trading one small town for another, and beside Sunflower, she was never exactly welcomed by her new community.

Already feeling unsettled, wondering where Sunflower could be, she now has the relentless affections of Taggart to endure during her shift. The arrival of a sinister customer does nothing to help Olivia’s spirits, especially when he tells her that he wants her heart. A strange storm changes everything Olivia thought she knew. Now, it is a race against time to get out of Chapel Hill, but Olivia will not leave before she finds Sunflower.

In A Light Most Hateful, Olivia takes on the point of view role throughout. The novel moves at a fairly rapid pace as Olivia and her secretive new companion, Christmas, try to find Sunflower and make their escape from Chapel Hill, avoiding any encounters with other inhabitants at any cost since they appear to be infected with something causing mindless, violent outbursts. As the narrative progresses, Olivia slowly begins to unpick what has happened since the storm and, more importantly, why.

On the surface, this is a zombie story, and for perhaps the first two-thirds of the book, the action became a little repetitive for this reader, and the storm and its effects seemed fairly familiar and perhaps mundane. Much page time is spent on Olivia’s desire for Sunflower’s affection (which is largely unrequited) and the burdens of her past. On persevering, however, we are rewarded with the clever truth – a twist, or rather a reveal, that is worth the wait and provides an injection of the unique.

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