For what I'm sure are racist reasons, the narrative surrounding the Civil War has been moving toward a retelling in which the Confederacy was a group of well-meaning people trying to fight for their land and states rights. When I was a kid, school taught us that narrative. It wasn't about slavery. It was about states' rights! Yeah, states rights to have the right to own human beings, but sure, "states' rights."
Unfortunately, this deviation from the plain truth that the people who fought for the Confederacy were fighting to own humans, pervaded my young adult fiction. I briefly discussed the Civil War in my review of Fear Street Sagas #2: House of Whispers, wherein the topic of the Civil War is more of a brief mention. However, in the next book in the Fear Street Sagas series, #3: Forbidden Secrets, the topic of slavery and the interactions between slaves and slaveowners is an important plot point. And all this is done with any actual black people (well, except for one coded one - we'll get to that).
So join me as I read this book that was the product of an attempt to make the Civil War less about blatant racism and more about some vague idea of "states rights." A book about using black culture without any black people. A book devoid of shame.
We start in Blackrose Manor with an old woman telling her story, not unlike the beginning of Titanic. Unlike the movie, the woman in this story is not telling the story to her son so he can grave rob. The woman in the book is telling her story to no one in particular and refers to all the events in the third person. Oh good. She's a crazy lady.
The story shifts to 1861 in Whispering Oaks, Georgia. Savannah Gentry is looking over her father's plantation and she tells us that it's a special day - her birthday. And because it's her birthday, her father has given all the slaves the day off. Great. He owns people as if they are sofas, but at least he gives them his daughter's birthday off. That makes up for the whippings, I'm sure. (This article contains sarcasm, in case you're a Texas politician who doesn't understand satire.)
Anyway, Savannah has an older sister named Victoria, and Victoria has been picking up some "strange habits" from the slaves. Do we learn the names of any of these slaves who have been teaching Victoria these "strange habits?" The ones who get a day off to help celebrate Savannah's birthday? No, of course not! Do we get any black people? Maybe - we'll get to that.
Anyway, Savannah finds Victoria in the middle of one of her "rituals." The narrator never explicitly says what Victoria's doing, but I think we all know what she's doing.
After Savannah gets her sister's attention, Victoria asks her where Tyler Fier, their brother Zachariah's new friend, is hiding.
"At the party. I came here because I wanted to talk to you."
Victoria narrowed her brown eyes. "I don't trust Tyler."
"Did you think you could hurt him by killing little pigs?" Savannah asked.
"I thought I could learn something about him through performing this ritual." Victoria smiled triumphantly. "And I did."
Savannah fumed. "You have no right-"
"I have every right," Victoria insisted in a rush. "I'm older than you are. I have to protect you."
"I don't need you to protect me from Tyler." Savannah spun on her heel and began to walk away.
"You're wrong!" Victoria cried. "Tyler Fier comes from a cursed family."