For fans of People Like Us and The Cheerleaders comes an all new psychological suspense novel about one girl's investigation into her friend's sudden death and the unsettling possibility that a killer is still on the loose.
Windham-Farnswood Academy is beautiful, prestigious, historic--the perfect place for girls to prep for college. But every student knows all is not as it seems. Each January, the Winter Girl comes knocking. She's the spirit who haunts the old senior dorm, and this year is no exception.
For Haley, the timing couldn't be worse. This month marks the one-year anniversary of the death of her ex-best friend, Taylor. When a disturbing video of Taylor surfaces, new questions about her death emerge. And it actually looks like Taylor was murdered.
Now, as Haley digs into what really happened last year, her search keeps bringing her back to the Winter Girl. Haley wants to believe ghosts aren't real, but the clues--and the dark school history she begins to undercover--say otherwise. Now it's up to her to solve the mystery before history has a chance to repeat itself and another life is taken.
"A skillfully plotted mystery,...dark secrets await." --Holly Jackson, #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Good Girl's Guide to Murder on Emily Arsenault's All the Pretty Things
An Excerpt fromWhen All the Girls Are Sleeping
Thirteen Nights Left
The window is open now, but I don’t feel the winter wind. I don’t shiver. I don’t chatter. Rather, I feel only a sensation of it blowing through the space that used to be me.
This is what it means to be a ghost. To watch all the other girls live--laugh, talk, sleep, eat, dance, study, scream--while you flicker and fade into the shadows. To wait till night to slip out of nonexistence and into these silent halls in search of your former self.
You won’t find her.
But still you look. Night after restless night.
February 10, 2018
Dear Members of the Windham-Farnswood Academy Community:
It is with deepest sadness that I inform you of the loss of one of our students early this morning. Taylor Katherine Blakey, a senior, fell to her death from a Dearborn Hall window between one and two a.m. I and other school faculty have been in close contact with Taylor’s family. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers in the coming days and weeks.
Campus security and health personnel, along with the Heathsburg town police department, will be conducting a thorough investigation of the incident.
Counselors Elizabeth Haden, Brenda Alenski, and Charles Utley will be available to students at Dearborn Hall and the health center, and will be visiting the classes in which Taylor was enrolled. They and other school personnel are working with students and staff who were close to Taylor. Students are also encouraged to call or visit the health center office if they need assistance during this difficult time.
Classes will continue as scheduled today and throughout the remainder of the week, but we urge all students to take the time and assistance they need as we all grieve together.
Dr. Shawna Ivins
Dean of Students
Monday, January 28, 2019
I felt my roommate’s gaze on me as I stretched and pulled up my window shade. She was already dressed in a red cardigan over long underwear and a jean skirt.
“Are you okay?” Star asked softly, twisting one of the cardigan’s shiny black buttons so hard I thought it would come off in her hand.
“Umm . . . sure,” I said, but felt one side of my face twitch at the half-truth of it.
“I woke up at about two a.m. and you were, like, playing with your phone.” Star frowned, letting her hand fall from the button.
“Couldn’t sleep,” I admitted. “Sorry, you should have said something if the glare was keeping you up.”
“It wasn’t.” Star pulled a hairbrush and hair clip from her desk but just stood there holding them, watching me.
I looked out the window so I wouldn’t have to figure out what kind of expression should be on my face. Outside, there was a powdered-sugar dust over the dirty crusts of ice and snow along the crisscross of paths in the middle of the campus green. It felt like it was never not going to be January.
“I’m just an insomniac,” I said. “And sometimes it’s better if I don’t fight it.”
I’d been on a YouTube tear last night, trying to push back various little guilts and delayed responsibilities--among them, the email from Taylor’s brother. He’d sent it over a week ago and I still hadn’t replied.
Star buttoned her cardigan over her chest, looked at the effect in the full-length mirror between our beds, and then unbuttoned it again.
“Why do I have these particular boobs?” she asked. I wasn’t sure if she was asking me or the universe.
“Why do I have these particular boobs?” I said, just in case.
“Because those are the right boobs for you. I, on the other hand, seem to have gotten someone else’s boobs.”
“Whose boobs do you think you have?” I asked, stretching.
“They’re someone’s mom’s boobs. They’re the wrong size. They’re too big, but not in a good way. They’re the wrong personality.”
Star stuck her elbows out and flapped her arms, slamming the elbows down on the sides of her chest as if to forcibly compress it. Then she sighed and hung her arms resignedly at her sides before bending down to collect a few fallen papers from next to her desk. She had endless photocopies of 19th-century letters strewn across her half of the room. A history nerd, Star lately seemed to be drowning in her senior research project.
“I mean,” she said, “are you stressed out?”
“Stressed out?” I paused, trying not to look pointedly at the avalanche of homework on her desk. “I’m not the one disparaging my boobs first thing in the morning.”
“I meant the staying up all night.”
Star sat on her bed and tilted her long, makeup-less milkmaid face to one side. Sometimes her sincerity embarrassed me. I had to remind myself that that was my problem, not hers.
“Oh, it wasn’t all night,” I said, nearly chirping this reassurance. I’d fallen asleep sometime close to three a.m.
Star wrestled with the sides of her sweater, still clearly distracted by her rogue boobs. I bit my lip to keep from smiling. I opened the door to head down the hallway for the bathroom.
I shuddered. The sensation hit me right away, even before I’d stepped out of our dorm room. It was freezing cold in the hallway. More freezing than usual, even. Dearborn Hall was a drafty 19th-century building with crotchety old radiators. Their unpredictable hissing and banging was probably a big part of why some girls said the building was haunted.
The bathroom was ice-cold, too. But I needed a shower--to wash away some of the grogginess and worry of my relatively sleepless night. At least enough to get me through the first couple of classes.
When I made my way down the stairs to breakfast, Alex was standing in the second floor of the stairwell, looking small against its majestic arched window.
Sometimes, when you saw her from far away--before you had a chance to hear her speak and remind you how smart she was--she looked tiny and vulnerable. She was pale, just barely five feet tall, with brown hair that had a little bit of blond-red in it at the end of the summer or when she was standing in sunlight, like right now. Since her arms and legs were like twigs, other girls often whispered that she might be anorexic. She wasn’t. I could attest to that, having been her roommate freshman year and then actually friends with her more recently. Alex ate plenty. She was just one of those fast-metabolism girls.
“Hey,” I said.
“Hi there.” Alex turned from the window and seemed to force a smile.
“How’s the flower-bulb thing going?” I asked. I hadn’t had a chance to catch up with her in a few days. She was always busy and usually had a few different projects going at once--almost all of them having something to do with science. Most recently, she’d been spending her spare time at the greenhouse, where she was chair of some committee to do a public bulb show. They were charging admission, and the money was going to an organization that protects state wetlands.
“Good,” she said. “There are a couple of juniors helping me.”
I nodded, feeling a little guilty that I wasn’t helping her myself. College applications had been killing me lately, and I hadn’t felt up for any new stuff this year. I did cross-country in the fall because we had to do a sport. I did newspaper because I always had. But even that had felt like a ball and chain.
Alex sighed, gazing into the tree branches that were at eye level.
“So tired of the cold,” she murmured.
“Yeah,” I agreed, a little surprised at her melancholy, and unsure if she was referring to the temperature of the hallway this morning or the midwinter weather generally.
We were both staring out the window now. It was an unusually sunny morning for January. The snow seemed to sparkle. I watched Alex scan the landscape till her head was turned to the right. She was looking at the spot on the brick pathway where Taylor had landed last February. Then her gaze darted quickly back to me. Like she didn’t want me to see her looking there.
I didn’t blame her for looking. A lot of us probably didn’t know how to look at the place on the walkway where Taylor had died. I usually went in the front entrance of the building--rather than the side door, which would basically force me to walk over those bricks. And when I forgot myself sometimes and went in that direction, that night would inevitably come back to me. The yellow tape. The ambulance and the police cars. The horrified expressions of the handful of seniors who had seen her before the residential director had managed to gather everyone in the dining hall to keep them away from the scene. Those expressions came back to each of those girls occasionally until they graduated last June. I was glad they were gone now. But I wondered if the same expressions occasionally came over them still--troubling and mystifying their new college friends.
“Breakfast?” I said weakly.
“Yup,” Alex agreed, and we went down the last steps together.
Maylin had already finished her cereal by the time we joined her at one of the round wooden tables. She took out her red lipstick and retouched her mouth while she watched us dig into our bowls of yogurt and granola. She looked impeccable. Maylin was probably the only Windham girl who wore full makeup, wrap dresses, and heels to class. She had to get up an hour before everyone else to pull it off, but she said it made her feel more confident.
“Do you miss Jake?” she asked me, sweeping her long black hair up into a clip, away from her wet lips. “I mean, do you ever miss him?”
I held in a sigh. Talking about my ex with Maylin wasn’t a new conversation. Jake was my boyfriend last year. We met at the Farnswood half of Windham-Farnswood. The school community as a whole was kind of coed, kind of not. All of the girls’ dormitories were on the Windham campus, all of the boys’ ones at Farnswood, about two miles away. Freshmen and sophomores had single-sex classes on their own campuses, but upperclass students had coed classes. A shuttle went between the two campuses for this. So most of the Windham boyfriends came from Farnswood, of course. Unless you were resourceful enough to have a boyfriend from back home, or to sneak your way into parties at the nearby state university and snag someone there.
“Actually . . . not that much,” I said.
It was mostly true now--even if it hadn’t been true a couple of months ago. And it felt like what Maylin wanted me to say. Jake left after he graduated and his college is in Maine. Massachusetts to Maine wouldn’t have been an unreasonable distance for some to carry on a long-distance relationship. But Jake and I chose not to. The outward ease with which we’d come to this decision seemed to fascinate Maylin, so she and I had had this conversation several times already this year. Her boyfriend, Wes, was Canadian, and he was dead set on going to McGill University in Montreal. Maylin, on the other hand, had mostly applied to warm and sunny places.
“Do you ever text him?” Maylin wanted to know.
“I did on his birthday.”
That was back in September, and I’d actually hidden Jake on my social media since. Even though it hadn’t been a really bad breakup, I didn’t need a play-by-play of who he was hooking up with in college.
“Do you think he has a new girlfriend by now?”
I shrugged. “Stands to reason he would.”
I glanced at Alex, who was probably grateful to be left out of this conversation. Alex had a Farnswood boyfriend for about two months last year, but she was mostly mysterious about it. She seemed to have trouble fitting him in with all of her studies and causes. According to Maylin, Alex also mentioned a couple of times that she wished he’d shower more.
“Are you thinking of moving to Canada, Maylin?” Alex asked.
“Canada probably doesn’t want me,” she said dully. “And I don’t know any French.”
I gazed at my half-eaten yogurt. My brain wasn’t functioning very efficiently this morning. While Alex and Maylin continued to talk about the pros and cons of following a boy to Francophone Canada, I took out my phone and clicked on Taylor’s brother’s email. It had been more than a week since I’d last read it.
I hope you’re doing well at Windham-Farnswood and having a not-too-stressful time with college applications, etc. It was a sad Christmas without Taylor, but we all went to Colorado together just to be in a different place than past holidays. I’ve finally had the stomach, lately, to go through some of Taylor’s old things. I managed to get into her phone last weekend. There are lots of pictures of you two together, and I was remembering how fondly she spoke of you. I also found this weird long video, and I wondered if you had any idea what it was? Maybe she’d shown it to you before? Just curious. Write back when you can--I know you’re probably busy.
All very respectable and polite. This was the older of Taylor’s siblings--he’d graduated from college last year. Below his message was a big file--a video. And I had a feeling I knew exactly what it was without even looking at it. I just didn’t have the heart to explain it to him.
You see, Thatcher . . . your sister wasn’t really all that nice. She filmed some poor self-conscious girl making out with a Farnswood guy at a party. . . . It was a real shit show.
And could someone like Thatcher--smooth and smart and even-keeled, I could tell from our one meeting at Taylor’s memorial--understand that kind of thing? And why was he named Thatcher? What were the other kids in the family named? I was trying to remember. Thatcher, Taylor, Tinker, Spy. Something like that, probably. People with money were so weird to me sometimes.
“How’re you girls?” someone said behind me.
I turned to see our residential director standing there. She slipped into the empty seat next to me. I did my best not to suck in a breath as Anna’s glossy brown lipstick formed an overly sincere smile.
“Haley, I haven’t talked to you in ages. I didn’t even hear how your holidays were.”
“Not bad,” I said. “My grandmother always has a nice Christmas Eve.”
“Well . . . wonderful.” Anna touched the back of her hair, near her ear. Maybe she was checking to see if her bobby pin was perfectly secure. She always wore her hair like this--neat bun behind slicked-back brown hair that matched her lipstick startlingly well--like she was drawn by a cartoonist who had only one shade of brown. She was maybe trying to look the part of the housemother from central casting. But she was a little too pretty for the part, in my opinion. A stereotypical housemother would be older than Anna--who was about thirty--and would maybe have a wart somewhere on her face.