When you read a book and find yourself drawing frequent comparisons to To Kill a Mockingbird (one of my all time favorite novels), you know you are in the hands of a masterful storyteller. And so it is with Wolf Hollow, the beautiful, haunting and mesmerizing debut novel by Lauren Wolk, a story which gripped me tightly as I read and still hasn’t let me go.
Wolf Hollow is the story of Annabelle, an eleven year old girl living in rural Pennsylvania as World War II rages overseas. Annabelle’s days are largely peaceful, and she feels somewhat protected by Toby, a WWI veteran who roams her neighborhood behind the lens of a camera given to him by Annabelle’s family. But when Betty Glengary moves to town, a bully not afraid of inflicting brutal harm upon others, Annabelle’s days go from peaceful to riddled with anguish. Soon Betty goes missing- and so does Toby. And the small neighborhood in which they all live is out for vengeance.
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Annabelle’s coming of age story forces a young girl who never before had reason to lie to take desperate matters into her own hands, even if she has to operate under a veil of secrecy. As she attempts to right the wrongs in a community overwhelmed by intolerance, she is forced to confront social injustice in all its brutal forms. Wolf Hollow is a 2017 Newbery Honor book for a reason. The prose is simple and the pacing is masterful, steadily building tension and suspense as the story races to a climax. Annabelle is a beautifully drawn character, tackling preexisting prejudices in a way she believes will bring darkness to light, all the while struggling with how judgments and preconceived beliefs about people can mount and escalate until poor choices and horrible actions appear to be the only answers. Wolf Hollow is complex, thoughtful and, at times, unsettling. But it is a powerful, if not masterful debut by Wolk. A must read.
Wolk’s second novel, Beyond the Bright Sea, pubs tomorrow (May 2), and we cannot wait to get our hands on it!