“I told you.” He said, “It’s Mrs. Schneider. She won’t stop screaming. There’s so much blood.”
As a self-confessed Christina Henry addict, I obviously ordered this one straight away. But when I got the opportunity to read an eARC, I leapt at it. This was a little different from the others, not a retelling but its own creepy story of witches, woods and murders, and I loved it.
Rating: 4 stars!
Thanks to Titan Books for the eARC of this book, it has not affected my honest review.
Trigger Warnings: racism, slurs, murder, gore, violence, underage sex (incl. off-page sex between a minor and an adult presented as consensual), 18 year old dating a 14 year old presented as consensual, fatphobia, slutshaming.
About the book:
When the bodies of two girls are found torn apart in the town of Smiths Hollow, Lauren is surprised, but she also expects that the police won’t find the killer. After all, the year before her father’s body was found with his heart missing, and since then everyone has moved on. Even her best friend, Miranda, has become more interested in boys than in spending time at the old ghost tree, the way they used to when they were kids.
So when Lauren has a vision of a monster dragging the remains of the girls through the woods, she knows she can’t just do nothing. Not like the rest of her town. But as she draws closer to answers, she realizes that the foundation of her seemingly normal town might be rotten at the center. And that if nobody else stands for the missing, she will.
What did I think?
This one started a little slower than other Christina Henry books I’ve read, but there was a particular chapter that took it from zero to 100 and after that I was hooked. There was something kind of thriller-like about this book, and I really enjoyed the way that I knew more than the characters did and could piece things together from each POV. This was far more thriller-horror than it was scary-horror, which I really enjoyed. I was watching things unfold slowly and with only a little extreme fear that something horrible was going to happen to Lauren, our wonderful fourteen year old protagonist who has a penchant for wandering into the woods to try and solve gory murders.
I really loved Lauren. She wasn’t our only POV, there were chapters from several different characters including: Alex, a cop who hasn’t been in town very long; Lauren’s mother; Miranda; the mayor and other supporting characters. It gave an interesting and fleshed out view of what was happening, which made the plot so much clearer than it would have been from Lauren’s limited perspective. I think that worked really well, but Lauren and David were absolutely my favourites. The balance of maturity and childishness was done really well and between her crises on her appearance, her period and her development in comparison to other girls her age, I genuinely felt like she read like a fourteen year old going through trauma.
However I refuse to not comment on the romance in this book. It’s not much of a romance, because Lauren is a few weeks away from her fifteenth birthday and far too busy trying not to get murdered, but the fact that a fourteen year old girl went on a date with an eighteen year old man in this book and that wasn’t presented as a problem truly grossed me out. I hated it. She’s a child, he’s an adult. It didn’t play any role in the story that couldn’t have been done by him being, for example, sixteen, and it would have been significantly less icky. There is actually a different instance of a grown adult and a child having “consensual” sex in this book (using quotation marks because it’s NOT consensual, she is a CHILD), but while that’s identified as being a problem, everyone is just fine with Lauren going on a date with a grown man. I really hated it.
Overall though, this was a great book with a really interesting cast of characters and a plot that genuinely had me guessing on how the hell it was ever going to be resolved. Christina Henry definitely stays on my insta-buy author list.