Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Book Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest

I'm not a big Holly Black fan, but I must say that I rather liked this book.  It's far, far less sexual than her usual stuff, it doesn't glorify tattoos for a change, and it really is more YA than a book for adults with YA characters in it (which is what I've read from her before).

Here's the plot summary for you:
Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.

At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

Until one day, he does…

As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?

What I liked was the character complexity.  Even though Ben (Hazel's brother) felt a bit stereotyped (as if Black had decided she needed some kind of marginalized character so she randomly picked a gay guy who liked the arts -- uh, not too original), nearly everything else in the character development was superb.  The nuances of sibling relationships, the problems of parent neglect and drunkenness, the cleverness of a dual life are all very good.

My only real complaint is that Black has this thing about making all her teen characters into wild children.  They all drink.  They all have a lot of sex.  They all sneak out and party every single weekend.  I find this unreal.
After more than two decades of teaching, I've known kids like this, but they're the minority.  Black never seems to write in even minor characters who behave differently.  It's odd, and, for me, it's off-putting.
Because of this, I was hesitant to pick up this book, but I'm glad I did; this time, it was worth it.

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