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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Shows readers elements of a Gothic tale with romantic overtones, but is largely meant to entertain, not inform.
Strong messages about finding yourself and standing up for what matters to you. Also protecting the vulnerable from those who would harm them.
Positive Role Models
There's a whole posse of teens behaving badly here, most of them the reluctant residents of a camp for wayward boys, who lose no chance to get drunk, destroy property, mistreat their various victims, etc. Pitted against them is the spooky, very conscious forest, into which many have vanished over the centuries, and which doesn't take kindly to violations. Against them are Nora, latest in a long line of witches dwelling on the woods' edge, and Oliver, the mysterious boy she finds unconscious in the woods, both of whom are drawn to each other and struggle to do the right thing, showing a lot of courage, resourcefulness, and self-sacrifice amid confusion and uncertainty. Nora's recently deceased and much-missed grandmother, who was both her mentor and comforter, is still a strong presence.
Violence & Scariness
The disappearance and likely murder of a teen boy is crucial to the plot.Teen characters get into physical fights, force other teens into deadly situations, and engage in run-of-the-mill bullying. Meanwhile, the woods consist of trees that are very aware, very mobile, and very upset about their space being invaded by partying hooligans -- and in one case drag one of them underground to his death. Characters vividly recall drowning experiences.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Nora comes from a long line of women who stay with the men they love just long enough to conceive the next daughter. Several intense kissing scenes; teen couples sleep in the same bed, with intense kissing and skin contact but no explicit mention of sex.
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Multiple "f--k," "s--t," "pissed." Also "a--holes," "idiot."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Lots of drinking and some smoking by teen characters. Drunken teens are a common occurrence, and as often happens in scary tales, it doesn't turn out well.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Winterwood, like author Shea Ernshaw's debut The Wicked Deep, is an angst-filled, ominous tale of teens in love, at the mercy of mysterious forces and struggling to find their path. Pacific Northwest Gothic creepiness abounds, including a supernatural forest, a bottomless lake, generations of witches living by its side, and a camp for wayward boys. Everyone is trapped there for weeks with no power or phone service in the wake of a storm, in which a boy has disappeared and is presumed dead. One of the characters has very likely killed him, but some have lost their memory and others aren't talking. Typically for the genre, much of the plot involves drunk, partying teens with cruel, stupid, bullying behavior, who also throw around a lot of strong language ("f--k," "s--t," "pissed," "a--hole") and trash the houses of absent owners after breaking in. Against this, the two teen narrators -- 17-year-old Nora, youngest member of the witch (or so they say) family, and Oliver, the mysterious boy she finds unconscious in the woods -- are trying to do the right thing, help each other, stay out of harm's way, and prevent catastrophe.
Is It Any Good?
Fans of angsty, doomy Gothic romance will find much to love in this tale of haunted woods, teens behaving badly, and a star-crossed couple facing dangers supernatural and otherwise. Protagonist/narrators Nora and Oliver are appealing and relatable as they fall in love while overwhelmed with a sense of wrongness and impending doom. But some readers may find there's a lot of foreshadowing, deer-in-the-headlights paralysis, and hand-wringing en route to Winterwood's eventual, and satisfying, payoff.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.