Tantalizing dark academia mixed with gothic fae lore

“A spell-binding mix of magic, myth, and mystery.” — Rory Power, New York Times bestselling author of “Wilder Girls”

Stanford, CA – Ava Reid, author of the instant Indies and Sunday Times bestseller “Wolf and the Woodsman,” and the CALIBA Golden Poppy Octavia E. Butler Award-winning “Juniper and Thorn,” returns with her YA debut, “A Study in Drowning” (HarperTeen, September 19, 2023). Sharply written and hauntingly beautiful, this dark academia, enemies-to-lovers tale will immediately enrapture readers. 

Effy Sayre has always believed in fairy tales. Since childhood, she’s been haunted by visions of the Fairy King. She’s found solace only in the pages of “Angharad,” author Emrys Myrddin’s beloved epic about a mortal girl who falls in love with the Fairy King, and then destroys him. Effy’s copy is all that’s keeping her afloat through her stifling first term at Llyr’s prestigious architecture college. So when Myrddin’s family announces a contest to design the late author’s house, Effy feels certain this is her destiny. 

But Hiraeth Manor is an impossible task: a musty, decrepit estate on the brink of crumbling into a hungry sea. And when Effy arrives, she finds she isn’t the only one who’s made a temporary home there. Preston Héloury, a stodgy young literature scholar, is studying Myrddin’s papers and is determined to prove her favorite author is a fraud.

As the two rival students investigate the reclusive author’s legacy, piecing together clues through his letters, books, and diaries, they discover that the house’s foundation isn’t the only thing that can’t be trusted. There are dark forces, both mortal and magical, conspiring against them – and the truth may bring them both to ruin.

“A Study in Drowning”

Ava Reid | September 19, 2023 | HarperTeen | YA Fantasy 

Print | 9780063211506 | $19.99 | Ebook | 9780063211520 | $10.99

Audiobook | 9780063211537 | $27.99

AVA REID is the award-winning, internationally bestselling author of critically acclaimed adult fantasies “Juniper & Thorn” and “The Wolf and the Woodsman,” as well as the forthcoming “A Study in Drowning,” her young adult debut. 

After obtaining her degree in political science from Barnard College, she moved to Palo Alto, where she continues to haunt university libraries. For more information check out Ava’s website.

Follow Ava on social media: TikTok | Instagram

In an interview, Ava Reid can discuss:

  • Why exploring complex topics such as mental illness, abuse, and trauma are important themes in young adult novels 
  • Why writing nuanced depictions of survivors of sexual assault is necessary
    • Previous experiences publishing a book with similar subject matter in an age of book bans and increasingly dangerous puritanical politics  
  • The overarching themes in her two adult novels and first young adult novel 
    • Stories within stories, mythology, and monsters–both human and not
  • The history, literature, and culture that inspired “A Study in Drowning,” 
    • The real-life authors–and the women in their lives who have been marginalized and forgotten
  • How politics and history have influenced Ava’s writing across all of her novels 
    • Nationalism and identity and recurring themes throughout all three books
  • How and why she honors escapism through literature in “A Study in Drowning”
    • “A Study in Drowning” was written as a tribute to readers–particularly young female readers–who find solace and hope through books 

Advanced praise for “A Study in Drowning”

“Achingly atmospheric and beautifully sharp, A Study in Drowning will draw you in from the first page. A spell-binding mix of magic, myth, and mystery.” — Rory PowerNew York Times bestselling author of Wilder Girls

“Haunting and elegantly rendered, A Study in Drowning is a lyrical examination of stories told, cherished myths, and an unraveling of truths held dear. Darkly romantic and unsettlingly eerie.”  — Erin A. CraigNew York Times bestselling author of House of Salt and Sorrows and Small Favors

A Study in Drowning is everything: a dark fairy tale, a tender romance, a haunting historical mystery, and a quietly furious tribute to the people whose stories have been stolen from them. I absolutely loved it.” – Alix E. Harrow, New York Times bestselling author of The Once and Future Witches

“Piling invention upon invention, Reid conjures a bleached-bone jewel box of a tale, full of strange treasures and captured bits of dangerous lore. A Study in Drowning is as merciless as a rising tide and as beguiling as a fairy’s bargain.” – Melissa Albert, New York Times bestselling author of The Hazel Wood

Praise for “Juniper & Thorn”

*Most Anticipated by: Tor, Goodreads, Buzzfeed, Gizmodo, Bustle, Paste Magazine, and LitHub* *An Indie Next Pick* *A Barnes & Noble Speculative Fiction Pick* 

“This riveting, atmospheric dark fantasy unflinchingly explores the disturbing roots of classic fairy tales.” — Buzzfeed

“Haunting and great.” — Paste Magazine

Juniper & Thorn is one of my favorite books of the year and I know I’m not alone in that sentiment. Reader after reader has found something in this book that rings true to their heart, resonates with their experience.” — Tor.com

“Reid fully embraces the darkness of the original tale while adding enough twists to make the story her own. Grimms’ fairy tale fans—and those who like their fairy tales grim—will be thrilled.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Juniper & Thorn is as lovely as it is gruesome…Reid twists the familiar magic of fairy tales into gothic horror, telling a powerful story of surviving trauma that doesn’t shy away from its ugliness…. Reid’s intimate, visceral storytelling, veering at times into body horror, may make this a hard read for some; others will find themselves reflected in its pages with nuanced understanding.” — Booklist (starred review)

“Sweeping, emotional descriptions and scenes of tightly wound suspense brings to mind both Eastern European ballet classics such as Stravinsky’s “The Firebird” and Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” and gothic horror like Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House—a juxtaposition that makes Juniper & Thorn an utterly compelling read.”  — BookPage (starred review)

An Interview with

Ava Reid

This is your debut young adult novel, what themes are consistent in “A Study in Drowning” that can also be found in your previous adult novels “Juniper & Thorn” and “The Wolf and the Woodsman?” 

I am always very interested in the deconstruction of fairy tales, the relationship between folklore and nationalism, and the role of stories in shaping identity on both the personal and political level. If The Wolf and the Woodsman is about the pain of being excluded from the narrative, and Juniper & Thorn is about the pain of being forced into a narrative against your will, then A Study in Drowning is about crafting an intricate, epic narrative of your own, in order to protect yourself from the pain of life’s daily, banal cruelties. 

How did the anti-Stratfordian theory inspire you to write “A Study in Drowning?” 

Anti-Stratfordian theory is the hypothesis that William Shakespeare was not the author of the works attributed to him, and that perhaps he did not even exist at all. Though this theory is widely discredited in modern academia, historically, it was given great weight by many influential figures, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and more. It was a fraught and complex issue: people dug up graves and invented whole cipher machines to try and prove it; many of the arguments against Shakespeare were rooted in classism and monarchism. As an ardent fan of Shakespeare, I wanted to create a literary figure that mirrored Shakespeare’s role in Western cultural imagination–he is more than a man; he is almost mythic, and if he were indeed discovered to be a fraud, it would be a devastating blow to English national identity, to the scholars who have dedicated themselves to his life and work, and to all of the people who have felt understood and impassioned by his writing. 

Why do you feel so passionately about representing a nuanced range of victimhood, particularly in young adult novels? 

My experiences in publishing Juniper & Thorn have taught me how deeply and mercilessly stigmatized the topic of child sexual abuse is in literature, that even in an adult horror novel replete with cannibalism, body horror, and other ghoulish acts of violence, the depiction of sexual abuse was what ignited outrage and controversy. It’s upsetting to see the world of literature–where we are supposed to take risks, start conversations, and experience catharsis–have such a puritanical and close-minded reaction to this topic. In YA in particular, we acknowledge how important it is for young, marginalized readers to see themselves and their experiences reflected in books. The vulnerable, courageous teenager survivors of sexual abuse deserve to see themselves reflected with humanity and nuance. Exploring the complex range of victimhood allows us to expand our empathy, and to continue creating meaningful, cathartic, boundary-pushing art. 

How do politics and history play a role in your writing, especially when it comes to worldbuilding and character development? 

All of my books are set in times and places that have real historical analogues–for A Study in Drowning, it’s mid-century England and Wales, where the role of women in society was changing rapidly and dramatically, and institutional sexism began to assert itself in new, often sharper ways. The rigid class system was also, to some extent, breaking down. Effy belongs to a generation who were the first women to attend university–all upper class women, of course, and Effy very much has class privilege, although she is still enormously disadvantaged on the basis of her sex. Also apparent is the enduring legacy of English colonialism, and Wales still chafing under its rule. This was incredibly fertile ground for exploring issues of gender equality, classism, cultural imperialism, and how all of this looks when refracted through the lens of academia. 

What is your perspective on academic culture and how did that perspective inform the plot of “A Study in Drowning?” 

My partner is an academic (a classicist), and over the course of our relationship I’ve lived at Columbia, Cambridge, and, currently, Stanford as he works on his various degrees. Because of this, I’ve occupied a strange position in academia–proximate but not fully embraced. My undergraduate experience was also very unique: I attended Barnard, which is the women’s college of Columbia University–until 1983, it was the only way for women to get an Ivy League education in New York City. Even now, when things are ostensibly equitable, within the larger university Barnard students are both openly and subtly denigrated, seen as less competent and less worthy. Additionally, I chose a degree and a specialty that is male-dominated. Ultimately this all coalesced into a feeling of belittlement and perennial outsider status, which is very much how Effy experiences academia, as well. 

What is next for you in your writing career? 

Up next is my newest adult book, Lady Makbeth. It’s a historical fantasy novel pitched as Circe meets Wolf Hall, a reimagining of Shakespeare’s play where Lady Macbeth is given a voice, a past, and a power that transforms the story men have written for her. It’s out next summer, August 2024.

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