The Hollow by Jessica Verday

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The Hollow by Jessica Verday

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ceri Padley
Reviewed by Ceri Padley
Summary: Jessica Verday delivers a strong debut with The Hollow, a dark and delicate story about one girl's journey through love, life, and grief, while living in the eerie town of Sleepy Hollow.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 528 Date: October 2009
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Childdren's Books
ISBN: 978-1847384980

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When Abbey's best friend, Kristen, disappears and is assumed dead, Abbey feels as though she has no-one left to talk to. Refusing to believe that Kristen is really gone, while struggling to come to terms with life on her own, Abbey meets the mysterious Caspian, a young man who appears to be the perfect gentleman, showering her with hand-crafted gifts and words of wisdom within weeks of meeting her. But beneath those piercing green eyes and soft-spoken manner, Caspian has secrets of his own. Hoping to uncover those, and determined to find out what really happened to her best friend, Abbey begins to question her sanity, as the truth proves more frightening than she thought.

The Hollow is Jessica Verday's strong debut novel about a young teen's attempts at getting back to 'normality' after the death of her friend. Young readers will find a sympathetic protagonist in Abbey, an everyday girl who's forced to grow up overnight and deal with issues usually left to adults. Her sudden isolation from her peers is a reflection on how heavily we rely on our friends and loved ones. When we lose them, we look to other things for comfort.

Abbey has the advantage of knowing exactly what she wants to do in her life. It's her bond with Kristen, however, that's now stopping her. What happens when our plans for the future go awry? Can we find the strength to go at it alone? Or should we hold on to what we once knew? Abbey faces this decision alone until she meets the mysterious Caspian who is there to hold her hand through all the stages of grief.

The Hollow has the potential to be a good coming-of-age story with all the elements of friendship, love, and loss, thrown in but Verday chooses instead to take us on a different path.

As the name will suggest, the novel is set in Sleepy Hollow, the town made famous by Washington Irving's short story. Perhaps it is Irving's 'legend' that gives The Hollow its slight gothic feel – Knowing that Verday's characters are living in a town that prides itself on having a fictional history is at times spooky, especially as Abbey spends the majority of her time at the town's cemetery.

Blonde-haired Caspian is a character who adds to the old-fashioned gothic feel of the story, bringing intrigue and depth to an otherwise straightforward journey.

Teenagers will love having a heroine (Abbey) who's easy to relate to. She's the everygirl with problems that face us all in our adolescence when deciding what to do once school is over. She also provides comfort to those who've suffered a loss of their own and are looking to find relief in a figure who feels the same. The haunting tone of the novel only adds to the likeable characters and endearing community Verday has created.

Verday has also ensured that readers will keep up to date with her future work by providing us with a lot of ambiguous notes that we hope the author will think to touch upon later. In some ways, The Hollow is more of a appetizer, a quick introduction, to Jessica Verday's writing and I could only finish the book satisfied with the hope that this is the beginning of a great series.

Overall I couldn't pinpoint anything that was wrong with this book. I struggled to put it down and found myself completely mesmerised by the easily identifiable characters and the relationships between them. Teens are going to love it. It touches on every element of adolescence and throws in the haunting tones that make Sleepy Hollow so well-loved. Jessica Verday has delivered a strong debut and a wonderful taster of great things to come.

Younger readers who are interested in exploring ghost stories that include The Legend of Sleepy Hollow might want to try Dust 'n' Bones by Chris Mould.

Thank you very much to the publishers for sending this to The Book Bag.

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