Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Teen for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: Available Now
Synopsis: Something is wrong in Hidden Creek. The sleepy Alabama town is more haunted than any place fiend hunter Grisham Caso has ever seen. Unearthed graves, curse bags, and spilled blood all point to an evil that could destroy his gargoyle birthright. The town isn’t safe for anyone, and everyone say fiery Piper Devon knows why.
Piper wants to leave Hidden Creek behind. She’s had enough of secrets–they hide in the shadows of her room and tell her terrible things are coming. Too-charming city boy Grisham might be her only chance to save herself.
To survive, Piper and Grisham have to shed their secrets and depend only on each other. But what lurks in Hidden Creek still might take everything away from them, including each other.
I have to be honest and admit the main reason why I requested Secrets of Skin and Stone was the mention of gargoyles. I have a fondness for them and personally feel there aren’t enough books featuring them. The premise was intriguing, but I didn’t expect to be so completely charmed by the story and Piper and Gris. Piper is a cutter and has OCD so please be aware of this trigger. A week or so ago I gave another YA novel, The Suffering Tree, a poor review primarily because of a main character who also self-harmed, and not only was there no advance trigger warning, but I felt the issue was poorly handled in the story itself. This was definitely not the case here. On the page directly before the beginning of the first chapter, there’s this warning:
This book contains fictional descriptions of self-harm. All attempts were made by the author, who has a personal history of self-harm, to portray cutting as realistic, but not gratuitous. These scenes are crucial to the characterization of the mental disorder represented.
Yes! That is what I want to see when an issue like this is a major part of the story. And true to this warning, the reasons for Piper’s cutting herself are thoroughly explored and her actions are not ignored, at least by Gris who understands the stress and despair behind her cutting and helps her discover that she doesn’t need to do this to herself in order to gain relief. Her OCD is also addressed although in a somewhat more limited fashion. While you would think these two issues would make Piper seem weak and vulnerable, let me assure you she’s anything but. She’s feisty, determined, and ignores the cruel words thrown at her by many of the other residents of Hidden Creek. What does haunt her is that she believes there’s a hidden darkness in her. This is heartbreakingly illustrated when after her dog is brutally killed, she decides to make a list of possible suspects and puts her own name on it. This is just one of the many times I wanted to reach in and hug her. And then there’s Gris. He is without a doubt Piper’s soulmate. As a gargoyle, or “Watcher” he’s in a perfect position to help her given that a mysterious villain is sending fiends after her. While his feelings of love for her develop pretty quickly, Piper is extremely distrustful of him in the beginning and it takes a little while for her to warm up to him. Once she does though, they’re the type of couple that give you the warm fuzzies. The secondary characters are okay, but because I was so invested in Piper and Gris, they didn’t really stand out as much to me. The identity of the villain wasn’t a huge shock, but that didn’t take anything away from the climax. The other thing I wanted to be sure to mention was how much I loved the setting. Although this story is contemporary, the description of Hidden Creek almost reads like a Southern Gothic. The dialogue between the characters that features that deep southern drawl helps bring this to life. Overall, while Secrets of Skin and Stone isn’t action-packed from beginning to end, I was still completely captivated. Starting with two main characters that I think readers will fall in love with and an original and creative mythology featuring gargoyles, this book should have wide appeal for fans of YA supernatural fiction. While this may be a standalone novel, I’m hoping it’s not because I’d love to see more of Piper and Gris.