The Lost Coast
by Amy Rose Capetta
The spellbinding tale of six queer witches forging their own paths, shrouded in the mist, magic, and secrets of the ancient California redwoods.
Danny didn’t know what she was looking for when she and her mother spread out a map of the United States and Danny put her finger down on Tempest, California. What she finds are the Grays: a group of friends who throw around terms like queer and witch like they’re ordinary and everyday, though they feel like an earthquake to Danny. But Danny didn’t just find the Grays. They cast a spell that calls her halfway across the country, because she has something they need: she can bring back Imogen, the most powerful of the Grays, missing since the summer night she wandered into the woods alone. But before Danny can find Imogen, she finds a dead boy with a redwood branch through his heart. Something is very wrong amid the trees and fog of the Lost Coast, and whatever it is, it can kill. Lush, eerie, and imaginative, Amy Rose Capetta’s tale overflows with the perils and power of discovery — and what it means to find your home, yourself, and your way forward.
Amy Rose Capetta’s work has been on my radar since I read and enjoyed The Brilliant Death, a YA Italian-inspired fantasy with a queer heroine at its centre, so when I learned she’d written a contemporary fantasy about a group of queer witches I knew I needed to get my hands on a copy.
Wanting a fresh start, Danny and her mom move to Tempest, California when Danny feels herself drawn to it on the map. Once there Danny finds herself pulled towards a group of four witches, who call themselves the Grays, who believe they need Danny’s help to find their missing friend and fellow witch, Imogen.
I love Capetta’s writing and I loved so much about this book. Danny and the girls she meets – Rush, Hawthorn, Lelia, June – are unapologetically queer, and though they all make a great group of friends they’re all fantastic individually, too, and I was impressed with how much I felt as though I knew them when the chapters themselves are fairly short and we flit between perspectives and times throughout the novel.
Usually I wouldn’t like stories that move around quite as much as this one does, but this one really worked for me; thanks to the way it’s structured I flew through this story and read it in a day, and because so much of the story is about trying to find out what’s going on in the woods and what’s happened to Imogen I felt compelled to keep reading and find the truth. This is a story that pulls you through it effortlessly, which is fitting considering the power Danny discovers she has.
Danny, in particular, I loved a lot. I’ve moved around quite a bit – I had four different primary schools, and I’ve lived in North Yorkshire, South Wales, Somerset, Lancashire and Gloucestershire – so I could really relate to Danny desperately wanting to be a part of this friendship group, and how much she wanted to please them, while also feeling like she was just on the outside of it all. There was something really satisfying about seeing someone who’s moved to a new place acknowledge on the page that it really sucks to be in a group of cool people who already have established relationships, and might not be able to make room for you.
With all of that there are moments where Danny isn’t even sure that she wants to find Imogen because the Grays adore her so much, and Danny doesn’t want to help them find someone who’s definitely going to lead her to being pushed out of the first friendship group where she’s felt the most like herself, and yet Capetta never goes down the girl hate route.
The only reason this book wasn’t a five star read for me was the ending. It wasn’t a bad ending by any means, but I wanted a little more from it and I wanted to know what the real life repercussions were going to be for everything that happened in the novel’s climax. The girls understand the magic in the woods, but let’s just say that everyone outside them is going to wonder what the hell has been going on.
I still loved this book, though, and I can’t wait to read the rest of Capetta’s work.