Friday, May 06, 2011

So rides the Goblin Rider in the night...

The Hollow by Jessica Verday:

When Abbey's best friend, Kristen, vanishes at the bridge near Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, everyone else is all too quick to accept that Kristen is dead and rumors fly that her death was no accident. Abbey goes through the motions of mourning her best friend, but privately, she refuses to believe that Kristen is really gone. Then she meets Caspian, the gorgeous and mysterious boy who shows up out of nowhere at Kristen's funeral, and keeps reappearing in Abbey's life. Caspian clearly has secrets of his own, but he's the only person who makes Abbey feel normal again...but also special.

Just when Abbey starts to feel that she might survive all this, she learns a secret that makes her question everything she thought she knew about her best friend. How could Kristen have kept silent about so much? And could this secret have led to her death? As Abbey struggles to understand Kristen's betrayal, she uncovers a frightening truth that nearly unravels her—one that will challenge her emerging love for Caspian, as well as her own sanity.
Summary provided by GoodReads.

Abbey’s in denial. Her best friend has been missing for months, believed to have drowned in the river, but despite the evidence and the funeral service Abbey clings to the idea Kristen might still be alive. The mysterious boy who appears at the memorial offers her something to focus on beyond where Kristen could possibly be. Caspian seems to understand her floundering and shares her love of the Sleepy Hollow cemetery where Washington Irving was buried. And with that understanding comes a possible romance. Good thing something is going her way because her status as the best friend of the girl “who may have committed suicide” has left her ostracized at school, and nightmares keep plaguing her sleep. Caspian, the cemetery and her perfume making are the only things keeping her sane.

Or are they? Because suddenly Caspian’s keeping secrets, a chance discovery of Kristen’s diary reveals her friend’s second life with her own mysterious boy, and there’s a new caretaker at Washington Irving’s grave.

I picked up Jessica Verday’s first book after reading about the Wicked Pretty Things debacle (you can find a round up of links here). I wanted to throw some support behind her and also check out the writer who had started it all. What I found in The Hollow was a very interesting premise, but a story I kept waiting to move faster. Setting her story in the town of Sleepy Hollow, New York, Verday weaves the Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow with the tale of Abbey, Caspian, and Kristen. A quote from the original story heads each chapter, and the town as a whole works to make Washington Irving and Sleepy Hollow an acknowledged part of their lives and tourism trade. As the child of City Council members, Abbey relates the various Sleepy Hollow events as she narrates her life in the months of after Kristen’s disappearance. This narrative follows a long, winding path of high school events, Caspian’s courting, and edges the mystery behind Kristen’s death to build up to a cliff hanger of sorts for Abbey’s mental state and Caspian’s secrets.

As the first book in a trilogy The Hollow successfully sets the scene for the rest of the series, and acts as one third of the overall story, but on its own I didn’t feel that it answered enough questions in relation to the many plot threads left open for the next book (or books). This lack of any payoff detracted from the interesting and unique story that Verday brings to the paranormal YA subgenre. While a mysterious boy is nothing new, Abbey, unlike many other characters in all of literature, has a hobby that she enjoys doing, actually does during the narrative, and uses as a focus for something she can spend her life doing. This life plan still remains significant to her even after she meets Caspian and tries to learn more about what caused Kristen’s drowning. The Hollow’s mythology itself is firmly rooted in Irving’s Headless Horseman tale, and even features characters who have a connection to the original “Legend.”

The Hollow was Verday’s first book, and I will definitely be checking out the next book in the series, The Haunted, to see if it will provide the answers (and a narrative tightness) that The Hollow did not. As a writer Verday has some very interesting ideas, and I would like to see how she grows and carries them out.

I would recommend the series to anyone who liked Twilight, but wanted Bella with a bit more personality. And I would love to hear what they (or you) thought.*

You can purchase The Hollow from these fine retailers: Powells, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Your Local Indie, or you can pick it up at your local library.

Book Source: L. I. B. R. A. R. Y. What’s that spell? LIBRARY – a word that looks kind of weird in CAPS, now that I look at it.

*I read this novel right after finishing What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell (review to come), and I would be interested to see if my review was shaded by this proximity.

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