Escape from Witchwood Hollow – Jordan Elizabeth Mierek
Everyone in Arnn – a small farming town with more legends than residents – knows the story of Witchwood Hollow: if you venture into the whispering forest, the witch will trap your soul among the shadowed trees.
After losing her parents in a horrific terrorist attack on the Twin Towers, fifteen-year-old Honoria and her older brother escape New York City to Arnn. In the lure of that perpetual darkness, Honoria finds hope, when she should be afraid.
Perhaps the witch can reunite her with her lost parents. Awakening the witch, however, brings more than salvation from mourning, for Honoria discovers a past of missing children and broken promises.
To save the citizens of Arnn from becoming the witch’s next victims, she must find the truth behind the woman’s madness.
How deep into Witchwood Hollow does Honoria dare venture?
Release Date: October 29th, 2014
Here’s something the synopsis doesn’t tell you: the story is told from three alternative POVs in three different eras: Lady Clifford in 1670, Albertine in 1850, and Honoria in 2001. Each girl finds herself lost in Witchwood Hollow at some point, and their fates are ultimately intertwined.
What I liked:
-the way the three narratives tied together; if you pay close enough attention, you can start to weave them together, but it was still nicely done.
-I thought Honoria’s backstory was unique – I don’t think I’ve read any other YA books that deal with 9/11, though I know many exist – and there were some heartbreaking moments when she tried to deal with her grief.
-I really liked how bold and bittersweet the ending was; I didn’t expect it to end that way, and I love that Mierek took that risk.
-the writing was nice, fairly simple, and easy to follow, but I’ll admit my attention occasionally drifted. It reads on the younger end of the spectrum, so it would be a nice transition between middle grade and young adult; there are some creepy moments, but nothing nightmare-inducing.
What I didn’t like:
-I understood why Lady Clifford was a POV character, but I felt like that took away from some of the surprise at the end (it was pretty obvious)
-I didn’t really like any of the characters, or, at least, I couldn’t pick someone to root for. Honoria was a sympathetic character, but I couldn’t connect with her; I didn’t like any of her schoolmates and the Harley/Leon/Honoria triangle felt a bit forced. The other POV characters – Lady Clifford and Albertine – had their strengths, but neither was a particularly likeable character (in my opinion).
I know that this next thing is going to be super nitpicky, but it threw me off: at one point, Honoria puts on her headphones and listens to Green Day singing about “a boulevard of broken dreams”. Honoria’s section takes place in 2001; “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” was released in 2004 (I knew I was in high school when it came out because American Idiot was everywhere that year!). Pop culture references are so tricky because, if done poorly, they can take away from the story, rather than adding to it; for readers like me who pay attention to these references, it can be off-putting that something as simple as a release date wasn’t double checked. But I suppose that would be an editorial thing, to fact-check before publication.
Overall, Escape from Witchwood Hollow was an interesting debut. It had a great concept, but, in my opinion, if it had been tightened and polished a little bit more, it would have been a lot stronger.