Saturday, July 22, 2017

CHARACTER COUNTS: In Darkling Wood


By Emma Carroll
Delacorte Press, 2017.  Fiction.  231 p.

Fifteen-year-old Alice lives in England with her mother and her younger brother Theo.  When a perfectly matched heart becomes available for Theo's desperately needed transplant, Alice must leave her home and friends to stay with a grandmother who she's never met.  It's bad enough that gruff Grandma Nell can't cook worth a darn, but the fact that she lives in an old countryside cottage with sketchy cell service and no internet connection just makes Alice's separation from her mom and Theo seem more complete.

Nell complicates things further with her intent to cut down the woods around her cottage, and the town neighbors are up in arms, making Alice a very unpopular new schoolmate.  With worrying about her brother, and an unusual new friend trying to convince her that the woods are actually filled with fairies, sensible Alice struggles with the discovery that things are not always exactly what they seem...both in the forest and in her family.  Old letters written by a young girl to her brother during WWI that are threaded through the narrative combined with Alice's technological isolation add to a sense of timelessness with magical results.  Alice develops strength of character in this beautiful story as she finds the courage to form her own opinions and make decisions independent of pressure from both friends and family.

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