S.P. Miskowski situates her latest novel The Worst is Yet to Come in the fictional town of Skillute, a setting she has used in several previous works (including Knock Knock and Astoria). Although Miskowski imbues her locale with an impressive amount of detail, it also works well as a cipher for Anywhere, USA, distilling contemporary tensions into a relatively small and concentrated population.
Miskowski quietly but powerfully foregrounds the conflicts of a nation in distress. She expertly depicts the special kind of anxiety that stems from holding progressive views while living in a community that is anything but. This political unease serves not as the novel’s primary focus, but as a disquieting undercurrent. Miskowski’s writing operates on multiple synchronized registers, producing a narrative that merges current dread with Gothic traditions while also drawing nuanced, fascinating connections between psychology and space.
The plot centers on a developing friendship between two teenage girls, Tasha Davis and her rebellious classmate Briar Kenny. The book shifts intermittently from Tasha’s superficially idyllic but stifling home environment to Briar’s dysfunctional, poverty-stricken upbringing. The novel builds toward a moment of violence that brings the girls closer together before coming to reveal sinister and long-suppressed secrets.
Although the novel does veer head-on into the territory of Gothic horror, it is above all else a richly drawn piece of character-focused dark fiction. Miskowski oscillates masterfully between insights into adolescent alienation and painfully adult revelations about regret and self-deception. Come for the perfectly mounted thriller plot, stay for the connective tissue—the ups and downs of relationships, trauma, disappointment, boredom and introspection.
I’ve said it many times and I’ll say it again: Miskowski is one of the best in the game. Her writing is distinctive, profoundly honest and essential.
Buy this book.