Mina and the Undead by Amy McCaw
Published By: UCLan Publishing
Released: 1st April 2021
CAWPILE Rating: 9.0 / 5 ★
I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
New Orleans Fang Fest, 1995.
Mina’s having a summer to die for.
17-year-old Mina, from England, arrives in New Orleans to visit her estranged sister, Libby. After growing up in Whitby, the town that inspired Dracula, Mina loves nothing more than a creepy horror movie. She can’t wait to explore the city’s darkest secrets – vampire tours, seedy bars, spooky cemeteries, disturbing local myths…
And it gets even better when Mina lands a part-time job at a horror movie mansion and meets Jared, Libby’s gorgeous housemate, co-worker and fellow horror enthusiast.
But the perfect summer bliss is broken when, while exploring the mansion, Mina stumbles upon the body of a girl with puncture marks on her neck, clutching a lock of hair that suspiciously resembles Libby’s… Someone is replicating New Orleans’ most brutal supernatural killings. Mina must discover the truth and prove her sister’s innocence before she becomes the victim of another myth.
Trigger warnings: murder, blood, addiction, death.
Amy McCaw is a well-known member of the YA book blogging community and as soon as I heard about her debut novel, Mina and the Undead, I knew I had to get my hands on it! 1) To support a fellow book blogger and 2) because it sounded amazing! I don’t read enough YA horror, and I knew that had to change. Mina and the Undead exceeded all of my expectations, and I was certainly blown away.
It’s 1995 and 17 year old Mina has arrived in New Orleans to visit her sister, Libby, who is studying out there. An avid horror fan Mina can’t wait to explore and discover the city’s dark secrets, including its bars, cemeteries and vampire tours. Mina soon gets herself a job at a horror movie mansion and sees it as her perfect job. Her excitement is short-lived, however, when she encounters the body of a girl, with puncture marks on her neck, clutching a lock of her which seems to be her sister’s. It’s up to Mina to discover the truth of the killing, and prove that her sister is innocent before the killer strikes again.
Well, this book was amazing! From the very first chapter I was captivated, and just wanted to keep on reading. I was absorbed in the wonders of this world Amy had created, and I honestly didn’t want to finish it. You could tell how much passion and research went into the writing of this book by the way the horror movies and settings mentioned were described in such intricate detail. I was in awe, and want to tip my hat off to Amy for the amount of groundwork that probably went into plotting and writing Mina and the Undead.
Twists and turns were present in every single chapter, and this, in turn, makes you want to sink your teeth in and not let go. The plot moved at quite a fast pace, and this was perfect for the amount of action, mystery and investigating that was present throughout. Whilst reading I did find myself trying to guess the conclusion, but every time I started a new chapter I found out that my chosen theory was wrong. When a book does that to me, I know I have found a gem. The 90’s pop culture references were a bonus to the story, and I just know it will evoke nostalgia in some readers. I also want to mention the setting of New Orleans, it was beautifully described, and it made me dream of going there. Amy’s writing is so expressive and picturesque that you can automatically imagine yourself there, amongst her characters. That’s pure talent, and Amy has it..
Mina was a character that I took to instantly, and I found her uniqueness shone brightly throughout the book. Her strained relationship with her sister, Libby was something that stood out to me, and I was intrigued by where their relationship was going to go as the story went on. Mina’s relationship with Jared, despite being a little bit predictable, was one that I was rooting for. It was a definite slow burn, which I do tend to swing towards, and I came away from the book hoping that they could make it work. Libby and Della’s relationship was also one that I cared for. I love LGBTQ+ rep in YA and I just found their coupling to be adorable. You could honestly tell how much they loved one another, and I would love a Libby and Della spin-off!
Mina and the Undead was the perfect YA gothic horror read and one that I couldn’t get enough of. Its well-structured plot, gorgeous setting and captivating characters make it one of my stand out reads of 2021 so far.