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  • Writer's pictureAmelia Hooke

Review of 'Thornhill'


By Pam Smy, 2017, Mystery, Paranormal, Ages 10-14

Rating: 👻👻👻👻 (4 out of 4 boos)

“Parallel stories set in different times, one told in prose and one in pictures, converge as a girl unravels the mystery of the abandoned Thornhill Institute next door.

1982: Mary is a lonely orphan at the Thornhill Institute For Children at the very moment that it's shutting its doors. When her few friends are all adopted or re-homed and she’s left to face a volatile bully alone, her revenge will have a lasting effect on the bully, on Mary, and on Thornhill itself.

2017: Ella has just moved to a new town where she knows no one. From her room on the top floor of her new home, she has a perfect view of the dilapidated, abandoned Thornhill Institute across the way, where she glimpses a girl in the window. Determined to befriend the girl and solidify the link between them, Ella resolves to unravel Thornhill's shadowy past.

Told in alternating, interwoven plotlines—Mary’s through intimate diary entries and Ella’s in bold, striking art—Pam Smy’s Thornhill is a haunting exploration of human connection, filled with suspense.”

What’s the main character like?

Technically, there are two main characters in the two different timelines, but the narrative centers primarily around Mary, whom we get to know through her diary entries. It is very hard not to feel awful for poor Mary as she faces the bully at Thornhill. Her thoughts go to some pretty dark places as she experiences some pretty brutal things, all because she is a little different.

How scary is it?

Thornhill is chilling. It sticks with you days after reading it. Younger me would have eaten up its haunting vibe, but I probably would have felt more upset on Mary’s behalf than scared.

Who might like this book?

Smy makes obvious connections to The Secret Garden, another great book, although not quite as dark in tone as Thornhill. In general, the book is gothically delicious in how it focuses on setting playing a pivotal role in the characters’ lives, so readers who appreciate creepy settings will appreciate Thornhill. Readers of graphic novels might like this book for its artsy use of pictures, and readers who like the very personal diary format will like Mary’s first-person perspective.

What did I like best?

I loved how Mary’s narrative was written in diary entries! It made her voice feel “real” and all the more tragic.

What was not so great?

Experiencing Mary’s victimization right along with her is heart-wrenching! This emotional effect, of course, is not really a bad thing and shows how well her character was written.

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