Title: The Darkest Part of the Forest
Author: Holly Black
Published by: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date: January 13, 2015
Pages: 336 pages
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Paranormal
Summary from Goodreads:
Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.
Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.
At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.
Until one day, he does…
As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?
There’s a monster in our wood.
The Darkest Part of the Forest has a great mystery— a horned boy in a glass box. However, the story that unfolds after the horned boy wakes up, doesn’t quite measure up to the intrigue of the mystery. Despite having some wonderfully menacing characters (see above excerpt), once moving, Holly Black’s story felt a little too forced and predictable.
Hazel is determined to fight the fae in the woods who haunt Fairfold, but wants her brother to share her mission. Ben used to, but he has a special magical gift from the fae, and now lives in fear of it, because he can’t control it. Throughout the book, we discover Hazel and Ben’s neglected childhood—which leads both of them desperate to prove themselves, and know unadulterated love.
The horned boy was more compelling in the box.
The love interests for siblings Ben and Hazel felt extremely one-sided on Ben’s side, and somehow underdeveloped on Hazel’s side (even though it was with a character we should’ve known well).
Black’s story kept me entertained, but not guessing. I was underwhelmed with the conclusion and wished it had been better—because there was so much potential!
Would I let my teen read this book?
Hazel and Ben aren’t really the best role models, but that doesn’t really prove a book inappropriate. I don’t mind morally ambiguous characters, but Hazel and Ben felt more superficial. Mostly I struggle to recommend it, simply because I didn’t like the direction of the story. The book is relatively clean, content-wise. There’s some gruesome scenes and gruesome fae creatures. Hazel kisses the boys and makes them cry. Ben is gay and shares a few kisses with another character, he also references what it was like for him to be with a boy for the first time. Sex is mentioned but there’s nothing graphic.
Age recommendation: 15
Language – mild
Drugs & Alcohol— the kids drink alcohol at parties, kids get drunk
Sex – several kissing and make out scenes
Violence – knife and sword violence against the fae; character gets fingers broken; characters left in coma.
My Goodreads rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Buy The Darkest Part of the Forest on Amazon.com
I read a lot. I'm a Mom. I'm officially in my 30s, but strangers often don't believe I'm old enough to drink. I love Young Adult fiction, and thought it was worthwhile to help teens and adults find age-appropriate options.