Book Review · Fantasy/Magical Realism · Young Adult Fiction

The Darkest Part of the Forest

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Hazel and Ben grew up in small town surrounded by a faerie-filled forest. The forest and its inhabitants draw in tourists, but also danger. In one part of the forest there is a glass coffin with a sleeping horned boy inside. Hazel, Ben, and generations of townspeople have fantasized about what would happen when the boy wakes up, but that is only a fantasy, right?

When I read about Holly Black’s (co-writer of The Spiderwick Chronicles) The Darkest Part of the Forest it sounded like a creepy urban fairytale that would be perfect for Halloween. Well… it isn’t that creepy to begin with. In fact I almost wanted to put the book down after I was a quarter of the way through it. I found the main character, Hazel, to be very annoying. We’re constantly told that she is a flirt who kisses all the boys. Though she has a (rather flimsy) reason for doing so I got tired of hearing about how many hearts she’s broken. Maybe I’m just getting old, but I didn’t feel like I signed up for angsty high school drama when I picked up this book. Where’s my dark fantasy? The world building and plot also lacked depth. I had many questions about how all of it worked and they were left unanswered.

The first half of the book is almost entirely setup information, flashbacks, and a lot of telling-not-showing. No real action or creepiness happens until halfway into the novel. Despite all the backstory I didn’t feel like I knew the characters very well and they still fell a little flat. If you stick with the novel it does get more interesting, but all the action seems to happen all at once near the end. We suddenly get all the information we need and then things get resolved. After the lengthy and descriptive setup I was let down that the interesting parts of the story were so rushed. The novel had a nice message about lying and sibling love, but it wasn’t as satisfying as I had hoped for in the fantasy aspect.

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