Synapsis: Two sisters, Silla and Nori, seek refuge in their creepy aunt’s dilapidated manor deep in the dark, dark woods. What begins as a fun family reunion soon turns into a world of nightmares. Evil lurks within the woods and the encroaching trees seem to have a mind of their own.
What worked: If you’re looking for a creepy, atmospheric book, this is it! We’ve got a cursed English mansion, enchanted woods, spooky dolls and an evil entity hiding within the dark nooks and crannies. Of al the creeptastic elements in this book, I was most unsettled by the aunt’s rapid decent into madness. Could you imagine being trapped in a house with a crazy old lady pacing nonstop and speaking gibberish in the upstairs bedroom? Jeepers creepers!
Pretty soon, the line between reality and crazy town gets blurred when Silla starts questioning her own sanity. Are the trees slowly but surely smothering the house that seems to be sinking into the ground? Is a “Slender Man” lookalike really stalking her and Nori? And what’s with the beautiful boy who seems to randomly appear out of thin air? Does he really want to nourish them with red apples, or does he have other plans in mind?
Pretty soon, I was starting to feel like I, too, was slipping into a starvation-induced hypoglycemic fog. My mind was spinning with questions throughout the girls’ dark and twisted journey into the unknown. Summed up in a word, this book is truly unsettling.
What didn’t work: The mute little sister was terribly annoying. Like all creepy little kids in horror movies, she quickly befriends the evil entity that’s vying for her soul. What’s wrong with these kids? Can’t they see that these fiends are pure evil!?! This “I see dead people” horror movie cliché is getting so old. By the mid-point of the book, I was ready for Mister Stickman to whisk her away so Silla could finally be free of the albatross around her neck. Yet, I know the moral of the story is sisterly love, so I guess I’m missing the whole point. What can I say? I’m heartless.
Overall: This is the perfect Halloween read for YA readers who are looking for a good spooky story without the standard monster mash tropes and obligatory love triangles.