A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black (Doll Bones, The Spiderwick Chronicles) finds confused small-town teens dealing with hormones, boredom, and their town's strange relationship with the supernatural Folk who live in the forest. The Folk have killed humans in horrific ways, including drowning and running them over with horses. The glass coffin in the woods, in which an enchanted faery boy sleeps away the centuries, has been the site of drunken teen make-out parties for generations. Protagonist Hazel, 16, has been slaying monsters since she was 11 (when a monster killed her dog); she also flirts with and kisses every boy in town, for reasons even she doesn't understand. Make-out scenes abound (with opposite-sex, same-sex, and human-faery couples), one of which involves partial nudity. Characters, especially teens, use lots of strong language, including "s--t" and "f--k."
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What's the story?
At first, the little town of Fairfold seems charming, rustic, and ordinary. Then you notice all the charms and magic signs scattered around the town and the fact that the locals never go out before stocking up on iron filings, filling their pockets with grave dirt, and otherwise trying to ward off the supernatural beings who live in the forest, with whom the town has an uneasy truce. Somehow connected to the Folk is the horned boy who sleeps in an enchanted glass coffin in THE DARKEST PART OF THE FOREST, who's been there longer than anyone can remember. Generations of teens have indulged in romantic fantasies about him and held drunken parties on his coffin. Among them are 16-year-old Hazel, who, for reasons she doesn't really understand, finds herself making out with every guy in town -- except for Jack, the one she actually likes, who's a changeling. Jack is also the BFF of her brother, Ben, who's gay and a talented musician. They all find themselves faced with the unexpected, from cryptic notes that appear in Hazel's locker to people turning up missing or spellbound, and one mystery leads to another. Soon the teens are simultaneously trying to wake the mysterious boy and grapple with the dark forces plaguing their town, struggling to make sense of their lives.
Is it any good?
Genre fans will find this a fun read, though even they may get bogged down in the tortuously convoluted cosmology and wonder if the ending is enough of a payoff for all the turmoil leading up to it. Others may lose patience. Along the way, there are some interesting vignettes of small-town life -- and how even good people often behave badly when they're scared.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why teen romances involving supernatural characters are so popular. What's the appeal? How does The Darkest Part of the Forest compare with other stories you know?
Hazel and Ben have pretty much raised themselves because their parents are loving but utterly unreliable. Do you know any kids who've had to become the adults in their family because they can't count on their parents? How did it affect them?
Would you prefer to be "ordinary" or to have some spectacular talent? Why?
- Author: Holly Black
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, High School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
- Publication date: January 13, 2015
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 18
- Number of pages: 336
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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