The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Sixteen-year-old Hazel lives in an unusual town called Fairfold, which is best known for its horned faerie prince who sleeps in a glass coffin. Although the prince attracts many tourists, the locals also have to deal with the other faeries that haunt the nearby woods. These are not wee sprites with butterfly wings, but rather faeries of old folklore: fierce, magical, tricky, beautiful, and brutal. Then one day, the horned prince awakens, and Fairfold erupts into an otherworldly battleground. Hazel must now become the brave knight she once pretended to be in order to save her family and high school friends from deadly harm.
Holly Black’s newest young adult novel is an eerie, edgy, and titillating coming of age fantasy set in contemporary times. At its center is an addled teenage heroine who struggles to make sense of her actions, relationships, and roles in the world. Hazel’s risk-taking and secrets make her both too forthcoming and too quick to run away. She is a delightful mix of impulse and regret, rebellion and limitations. But her complex relationships are at the heart of the story. Hazel’s interactions with her older brother Ben, her careless parents, and befuddled boyfriends are vivid and poignant.
Although the logic of the parallel stories in the endgame gets a little convoluted, this is a riveting blend of adventure and personal exploration. Hazel’s journey will resonate with most teenagers, and its fantasy elements serve as X-ray glasses to see into the inner workings of a teenage psyche. The Darkest Part of the Forest is an engaging and ultimately satisfying read.
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