When Ghosts Call Us Home: Novel Review

Review by Stacey O’Carroll

Author: Katya De Becerra

Publisher: Macmillan

RRP: $22.99

Release Date: 26 September 2023

“There’s a split in my head, a demarcation line drawn between my year with Layla at Cashore and everything that came after.” (Katya De Becerra)

Sometimes, we need to go back to the place of our nightmares to discover the truth. Ballet, movies, ghosts and sisterly love weave together in Australian author Katya De Becerra’s third young adult horror novel When Ghosts Call Us Home. A ghost story set in an old American mansion on a cliff, which horror movies have taught their audience is a sign of hidden horrors. 

When teenage Sophia returns to her former home, the ominous Cashore House, to participate in a documentary about her missing sister’s cult horror movie, Vermillion, she is confronted with a terrifying past. Sophia isn’t sure she trusts the director or his son Arthur but knows the only way she is going to find out what actually happened to Layla the night of her bloody disappearance is by returning to the house. While the camera rolls and scenes are recreated, Sophia starts to question her own memories of filming Vermillion and gets closer to the truth.

“I feel it before I see it, the movement in the water, next to my legs. Some

thing is circling me.

De Becerra creates an atmospheric and creepy setting for her characters in Cashore House. A house with a haunted past and stories of its own. Who wouldn’t look at a towering shadowy house and not feel a sense of foreboding? The world in When Ghosts Call Us Home comes alive on the page in such vivid descriptions that when Sophia senses some sort of entity grabbing her in the water, the reader can feel the grip on their own skin.

“I believe in ghosts as remnants of powerful emotions we have experienced.”

 I particularly enjoyed the opening scenes covering the initial filming of Vermillion, some of the more eerie scenes on the balcony and the inclusion of dance. The dance scenes, in particular, add movement and tension that helps create a sense of disorientation that places the reader in Sophia shoes.

De Becerra’s narrative structure works well to slowly reveal the truth of what happened to Layla. The story reminded me of some of the old 1980s and 1990s ABC teenage television series I loved as a kid. So vivid are De Becerra’s descriptions that I believe When Ghosts Call Us Home would make a fantastic television adaptation.

Although When Ghosts Call Us Home is a YA novel, there is plenty of interesting characters and mystery to keep adult readers entertained. When Ghosts Call Us Home is a spooky little novel that will have you avoiding basements, checking behind closet doors and jumping at your next text message.