Book: The Hanging Girl
Author: Eileen Cook
Age Range: 12 and up
I was interested in reading The Hanging Tree because I found Eileen Cook's prior novel, With Malice, suspenseful and compelling. Like With Malice, The Hanging Tree is full of twists and turns, and features a not necessarily likable protagonist. The Hanging Tree is told, mostly, from the first person perspective of high school senior Skye Thorn. Skye, who does fake tarot card readings to earn extra cash, is in serious need of money with which to move to New York after high school. Desperate, she gets involved in a kidnapping scheme. But, of course, things become more complex than Skye expects.
I can't say that I really liked Skye, though I had a certain sympathy for her. Her less than responsible mother, who also claims psychic powers, gave birth to Skye when she was only 15. They struggle financially, and Skye has no expectations post high school. Skye envies her best friend, Drew, who has a more conventional life, and is headed to college. Skye's background to me almost felt like a YA trope (less the fake psychic part). But Skye is also a manipulator who uses her understanding of people to fake the tarot card readings, and plays her school counselor like a violin. She's been lying to Drew about money for New York, and soon she is lying to the police about the kidnapping of popular girl Paige. The fact that she is also lied to by her conspirator, Pluto, seems only fair, really. But here's a snippet of Skye's voice:
"Drew took a careful sip of the coffee we'd stopped to get on the way. Not that she was drinking real coffee: it was some kind of dessert in a cup. If you don't like coffee, fine, but don't pretend to like it by making it into a sugar smoothie." (Page 140)
Sections of the book are also told from the perspective of Paige, who writes diary entries from an isolated cabin. I did find these moving. Like this:
"I always thought I was brave, but now I realize it was only because there was never anything I really needed to be scared of." (Page 58)
"I've never been so aware of how many hours, minutes, and seconds fill every day. I've taken to doing everything slowly. Staying focused keeps me from losing control, from letting the panic take over. I keep my fear locked up, but I can feel it straining to get out. Its thin fingers scratching at the door, breaking it down, like something from a zombie movie. You know it's going to get out, and when it does, it'll eat you alive." (Page 109)
I don't want to say more, for fear of spoiling the book. This is one of those stories about which the less the reader knows, the better. Suffice it to say that I read most of this book in a single sitting on a Sunday afternoon, unable to put it down despite the distractions of my child's visiting friends. Anyone who enjoys twisty suspense in a high school setting will want to give The Hanging Tree a look. Recommended!
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (@HMHKids)
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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