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What 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.
What's the story?
WINTERWOOD takes place in the town of Fir Haven, on the shores of a supposedly bottomless lake in the Pacific Northwest. It's pretty lively in summer, with tourists and vacationing families. But now it's winter, and, in the wake of a storm that's closed the roads and cut off power, few people remain -- and most of them are the unwilling residents of the camp for wayward boys by the lakeside. Also by the lakeside is the home of many generations of Walker women, rumored to be witches, where 17-year-old Nora Walker is home alone, her mom stranded out of town. Word comes that a boy has disappeared from the camp during the storm, and when Nora ventures into the woods, which she has good reason to know are full of mysterious, hostile forces, she finds an unconscious boy, Oliver. She takes him home and revives him, all the while troubled by the sense that something's not right. For his part, Oliver's got the same feeling, especially since there are big gaps in his memory. The two of them are determined to find the truth about what happened in the storm and what Oliver had to do with it, even though they're pretty sure they won't like what they find out. However, staying alive may be a more pressing challenge.
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the theme of people suspecting others of being witches in Winterwood. Why do you think this is a popular subject for storytelling? What other do examples you know?
Have you ever gone on a vacation or other visit to a place that's very busy during one season -- like a beach resort in summer, or a ski lodge in winter -- and pretty much deserted the rest of the time? What do you think it's like during the off season, and do you think you'd like to be there then?
In Winterwood, Nora's struggling to find herself within the legacy of her ancestors, which her mom tries to reject. Do you know people who are expected to go into the family business and don't particularly want to? Or do they look forward to being part of it?
- Author: Shea Ernshaw
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Misfits and Underdogs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Simon Pulse
- Publication date: November 5, 2019
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 18
- Number of pages: 336
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: November 15, 2019
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