I went into this book expecting the typical YA paranormal -- new girl in town, big dance coming up at school, prom dresses -- the same story I've read a dozen times over.What I got instead was a spellbinding story that's one part dark fairy tale, one part coming of age story, one part mystery. Told in beautiful -- yet compellingly readable -- prose, with vivid setting, and an inventive narrative structure, The Midnight Dress had me enthralled from the first sentence.I loved the way that the book's narrative flashed forward and back, alternating between the investigation of a tragedy on the night of the Harvest Festival to the story of Rose Lovell, who arrives in a sleepy beach town in Queensland, Australia, with her charming, ne'er-do-well father. In the wrong hands, this kind of technique can be confusing, but it worked beautifully here. Each storyline -- the investigation and Rose's integration into town -- moves forward on its own, but each illuminates the other.The story is set in Queensland, Australia in 1986. (I hadn't even realized that the book was set in the 1980s until one of the characters referred to a major world event.) As in many Australian novels, the setting is a central part of the story. From the violent rainstorms of the "wet"season to the snakes that slither through the sugar cane fields, the book's descriptions convey the simultaneous beauty and menace of nature.The Midnight Dress is one of those books that feels as if it was casting a magical spell over me as I read. There are the two main story lines, as described above, but then the narrative is also filled with other, smaller stories of love and betrayal and tragedy. Rose's friend Pearl tells Rose about the wildly romantic (and wildly improbable) plots of the romance novels she picks up at the Blue Moon Book Exchange. As Rose and town recluse Edie Baker work to sew Rose's Harvest Festival dress, Edie tells Rose strange and tragic stories about her family. As I read, I could feel the way that all Rose's emotions and all Edie's family history were being sewn right into Rose's dress. By the time the Harvest Festival arrives, I was almost expecting something really dramatic and crazy -- Carrie-prom-style. But, when the tragedy was finally revealed, it was like everything else in this book -- understated and deeply resonant.I highly recommend this one, especially to fans of dark, lush, atmospheric books like Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke or Chime by Franny Billingsley.