Monday, 10 January 2011

The Hollow - Jessica Verday

GENRE: Young Adult
PAGES: 528
PUBLISHER: Simon and Schuster
FORMAT: Paperback
BUY IT: Waterstones
RATING: 3 Stars

Growing up in the town of Sleepy Hollow, the mystery and intrigue over Washington Irving's classic legend are all part of daily life for sixteen-year-old Abbey. But when her best friend, Kristen, vanishes at the bridge near Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Abbey's world is suddenly turned upside down. While everyone is all too quick to accept that Kristen is dead, Abbey refuses to believe that she is really gone. And when Abbey meets the gorgeous, but mysterious, Caspian at Kristen's memorial she starts to feel like she has something to hold on to for the first time since Kristen's disappearance. But when Abbey finds a diary hidden in Kristen's bedroom, she begins to 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 disappearance or even her death? Hurt and angry at Kristen's betrayal, Abbey turns to Caspian for support...and uncovers a frightening truth about him that threatens both their emerging love and her sanity...

The Hollow is set in Sleepy Hollow, a town which fully embraces its legendary history. The narrator, Abbey, is a well developed and interesting character who more than compensates for the occasional lack of movement in the plot. She is a thoughtful, compassionate, and intelligent person who, most importantly, is easily relatable. Verday successfully uses Abbey's humour to keep her from falling towards the murky depths of teenage angst and love (which is a great feat considering the story centres around the aftermath of her best friend’s death).

A big chunk of the story takes place within the Sleepy Hollow cemetery, which is both the resting place of Kristin and a place which used to be the best friend's hang-out, provoking many flashbacks of their time together. Complete with the introduction of Caspian, whose air of mystery makes him all the more alluring; it is nicely atmospheric, with some echoes of Neil Gaiman's Graveyard Book. The Hollow is also a sensory novel, and Abbey's hobbies of baking and perfume making certainly evoke a deeper interaction.

Although the plot is frustratingly undeveloped in some places, it is only the first part of a trilogy following Abbey and her mysterious friend Caspian, who together are looking towards the reasons behind Kristen's death and Abbey's ability to mentally cope and move on with her life.

The interweaving of the legend of the Headless Horseman certainly adds another depth to the plot, and makes it even more fun. Verday does repeat the legend in bits, using quotes to introduce the chapters and to make sure those who aren't so familiar with the tale don't fall to the wayside.

The only real criticism I have for the novel is that the abundance of baking made me very hungry! Abbey is possibly my favourite of any heroine I have recently read because of her strength of character and self respect, and I think her presence of mind and caring nature are a great example to set for the younger readers, and earn her the respect of older reader.

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