Kate wrote a super scary story that won some random award at her school. Her teacher is a part-time writer who thinks Kate has talent and takes her to a writing conference. Though she looks forward to taking classes under famous horror author William Drewe, she's nervous about what he'll say about her writing. They get off the train and wait around forever until this creepy guy named Pearce pops up and takes them to the conference. He warns Kate not to get too excited about William as he hasn't showed up for classes yet and misses a lot of classes because of his drinking.
Not long after arriving, she meets Denzil. He teases her about having cabin 13, which is the furthest one back in the woods, hits on her a few times, and makes it clear that he's interested in her before introducing her to his friend Tawney. They both work in the cafeteria to pay for their classes. They see the conference cat, Pet, show up with wet whiskers. Everyone acts like it's some huge thing but as someone with cats, it seems fairly normal to me.
On the first day of class, William doesn't show but his brother Gideon does. Gideon reveals that he read Kate's story and acts a little lurker-y, staring at Kate during class and taking the time to get her alone later. It's even creepier if you consider the fact that he's in his late twenties and she's in high school. Denzil even teases her about how the teacher has a crush on her. Tawney thinks he's dreamy, but she does mention Miriam, a former conference worker and writer who was in love with Gideon and just didn't show up for work one day. They never heard from her again.
While trying to fall asleep in her cabin later that night, she hears someone whispering her name but there's no one there. She and Tawney then see Pet carrying a bloody glove with part of a hand in it. They run to tell Denzil, the glove is gone when they come back. Tawney somehow convinces her to go skinny dipping, and Kate sees someone with an ax standing in the woods and watching them. She tells Tawney, they flip out, and leave the water, but they find that someone stole their clothes.
Denzil conveniently shows up, but he doesn't believe there was a man in the woods. He think they're playing a prank on him because he didn't believe them about the glove. They eventually find Kate's clothes ripped to shreds on the path back to the cabins. Tawney thinks it was a bear, but Denzil says that there aren't any bears in the area. Yup, there are never any bears in the woods.
Kate leaves the group to go back to her own cabin and sees a figure staring at her. Instead of running for the hills, she stops and tries to talk to the person. The figure says that her name is Rowena and that "he" talks about Kate all the time. She notices a house hidden in the woods and Rowena says that no one lives there. The woman starts getting closer, and when she reaches out to her, Kate rushes off.
When she gets back to her cabin, she realizes that she lost her keys. Though Pearce gives her a new key, he warns her that someone out there in the world now has access to her. Things go a little better in the next few days, but the group does see Pearce and Gideon exchanging something in the woods that looks like an envelop. Gideon also gets her alone and acts a little creepy while reviewing her story.
Kate goes back to the cabin one day and finds her room absolutely trashed. All of her stuff is on the floor or missing and someone wrote teacher's pet across the mirror in what looks like blood. She rushes outside and runs right into Denzil. He doesn't see anything wrong with the cabin, and when she goes back, everything is in place and the mirror is clean. Kate tries to talk to Pearce about what happened, but he once again just acts creepy and warns her about someone having a key to her room.
Cut to another meeting with Gideon. He gets super intense to the point where he grabs her arm and won't let her go. After a short struggle, she escapes and runs off into the woods, where she promptly sees Pearce getting his foot caught in a bear trap and dropping to the ground. Even though she's a super tiny girl, she somehow manages to release the trap and Pearce tells her that it wasn't an accident.
After Gideon arrives to help Pearce, she finds his watch on the ground with an inscription from Rowena. When she later takes it back to him, she decides to talk to him about the woman she saw in the woods. He admits that it sounds like his sister Rowena, who died in a tragic fire the previous year, but he doesn't want to believe that she's still alive.
Kate convinces Denzil to follow Gideon one night. They see him go to a small graveyard and freak out when he sees a scarf on one of the stones. When he runs off in tears, they see that it's Rowena's grave. Kate also notices a smell that is a mixture of blood and dead flowers. She realizes that it's the same scent that Gideon's cabin has and the same scent she noticed after someone broke into her cabin. I'm pretty sure that is a smell I would never forget!
Kate decides to visit Pearce in the hospital, but she ends up overhearing a conversation between him and Gideon. It's all about how Rowena died in a fire, William tried to save her, and he ended up horribly scarred after the fire. Pearce thinks that it's some friends of William trying to make Gideon feel guilty because he wasn't around when the fire happened. Apparently, even though William is a best selling offer, they had so little money that Gideon had to work a full-time job to pay their bills.
After Gideon leaves, she goes in and talks to Pearce. He tells her that he's worried about her and that something bad is going to happen. He warns her about spending time with Gideon and generally concerned about her safety. She promptly leaves the hospital and goes right back to see Gideon, but he just acts loopy. Kate then finds a poem that someone left for her warning her that the same thing that happened to William will happen to her.
Okay, this recap is starting to annoy me, so let's get it done. Kate finds out from Pearce that Rowena and Gideon were twins. She was crazy, so her brothers locked her up in an old cabin. No one knew she was there when the fire broke out, which is why William was so injured. He was basically the only one who even tried to save her. Pearce knows that she's still alive and says that she'll never let Gideon have a good life because her life sucks so much.
Kate's cabin catches on fire, and fearing that it was Rowena, she runs to check on Gideon. She finds him in his cabin, mumbling about how his sister will never let either of them escape and about how Pearce is dead. She sees Rowena, who reaches into her dress and pulls out William's hand. The figure comes closer to her and the world turns black.
When she wakes up, Rowena reveals that she and Pearce were once in love but that no one can love her the way she is now. She also says that Pearce fell in love with Kate and that it wasn't fair for her to have two men when Rowena had none. The figure pins her down and starts talking about killing her. Her veil slips off, and Rowena reveals herself as Pearce. Just as he starts to drop a match and light her on fire, Gideon pops up.
He has a woman in a black veil with him, and he threatens to kill the real Rowena. Pearce gets confused and doesn't know what to do. Pearce ends up running away from the cabin, and the other woman takes off her veil to reveal that she's actually Tawney.
The book ends with Kate talking to Gideon. He tells her that William refused to let Pearce see Rowena because he thought his crush was unhealthy. Pearce set fire to the cabin in the hopes of killing William, but when the fire actually killed Rowena, he went crazy. They talk about their love of writing, she encourages him to write a story about what happened, he asks her to keep in touch with him, and they kiss. Denzil and Tawney take her to the train to meet her teacher, who was conveniently missing because of a bad case of poison ivy. Kate muses that maybe it's time to stop writing about horror and focus on something different.