Saturday, March 18, 2017

What I Read in May 2016 X . . .

What I Read in May 2016 Part X . . .

The Steep & Thorny WayThe Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters--Young Adult Historical Fantasy

In Eugene, Oregon in 1923 Hannalee Denney is mourning the loss of her Daddy after a year and a half. She is the only biracial girl in their rural community and with her Daddy gone, she's lost her connection to the past. Now Hannalee's mother, Greta, is married to Doctor Clyde Koning, who is white like Greta. When Hannalee learns her father's killer is out of jail, she's determined to hunt him down and shoot him dead. What she finds is Joe Adder, a scared and scarred young man who has doubts about what happened that night. Sure he was drinking and driving but Hannalee's Daddy, Hank, was alive when Joe brought him inside. Joe is convinced it was Doc Koning who killed Hank. Hannalee has her own suspicions as well and learns her Daddy's ghost is walking around trying to be laid to rest. Hannalee is determined to solve the mystery and let her father rest in peace at last. She open a hornet's nest of hate, intrigue and shameful secrets that could lead to her death and the deaths of those she loves.

Minor spoilers ahead - read at your own risk!!

This is a very powerful novel that stays with you long after the story is over. I probably shouldn't have read it before bed last night because it made for some unusual dreams. In case you hadn't guessed from the description, this story is inspired by Hamlet. Hamlet is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays so I really enjoyed the chapter headings from the original and this unique spin on the story. The secrets that come out really shocked me. I think of Oregon as a really liberal place but in 1923, it was not. It seems horrible to think that such hatred existed and while it is a difficult subject for a young adult novel, it is something teens should know about and think about. If we don't know our history, we are doomed to repeat it. It was really scary how the characters in the story experienced hatred or enacted hate crimes and some were proud to be so evil, yet they all considered themselves good Christians. They sounded like Nazis and yet they were right here in the USA. The story kept me reading until late into the night. I couldn't put it down until the final word was read. I almost skipped straight to the end to see how closely the story resembled Hamlet but I didn't. It is inspired by Hamlet more than a direct retelling.

The prose is beautiful and lyrical in spots, especially the descriptions of Hannalee's hometown and the woods.

I did NOT like the ghost. I was OK with it until the end and then it just got ridiculous. (view spoiler)

The one other thing I didn't like was the use of the F-word. Joe uses it a lot and Hannalee calls him on it. He points out she swears a lot too but she says hers are more mild.

This is a coming of age story for Hannalee. Her path is not an easy one and sometimes she's a bit too hot headed and hasty for my liking but I admired her pluck and her courage. Her path to adulthood is not easy and the things she experiences in this novel are quite dreadful and put her on the path to adulthood very quickly. I applaud the author's choice to make her main character a biracial girl. It was a bold choice. It works for me but I am not biracical so I do not know how it feels to be like Hannalee.

The other main character, Joe, is part Ophelia, part original character. He was the one I really felt an emotional connection to. I felt sorry for him and my heat was pounding at the suspense of not knowing what was going to happen to him.

The other Ophelia character is Hannalee's best friend Fleur. She's a sweet, sensitive girl who is devoted to Hannalee. Her older brother, Lawrence, is like Laeretes, wanting to be an upstanding citizen. It makes him cruel to his sister and to Hannalee, his childhood playmate. I didn't care for him much at all. I wasn't sympathetic when his secret was revealed. He behaved cowardly and turned into a bully. Sadly for me, there's no Polonious in this book but there's Greta, Hannalee's mom who does the best she can to keep her daughter safe but she also makes her daughter ignorant in trying to do so. There's also Claude who was a bit of a surprise.

There's a lot of violence and hatred in this novel, along with some swearing and frank discussions of sex and sexuality. I highly encourage anyone 14+ to read this novel even if you don't like the above mentioned. It's powerful and educational.

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