Monday, January 4, 2021

Review: The Ghost Tree by Christina Henry

by Christina Henry
Release Date: September 8th 2020
2020 Berkley Books
Softcover Edition; 415 Pages
ISBN: 978-0451492302
Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Paranormal
Source: Review copy from publisher

2.5 / 5 Stars

When the bodies of two girls are found torn apart in the town of Smiths Hollow, Lauren is surprised, but she also expects that the police won't find the killer. After all, the year before her father's body was found with his heart missing, and since then everyone has moved on. Even her best friend, Miranda, has become more interested in boys than in spending time at the old ghost tree, the way they used to when they were kids.

So when Lauren has a vision of a monster dragging the remains of the girls through the woods, she knows she can't just do nothing. Not like the rest of her town. But as she draws closer to answers, she realizes that the foundation of her seemingly normal town might be rotten at the center. And that if nobody else stands for the missing, she will.
My Thoughts
The Ghost Tree had such an interesting premise: creepy small town, murdered father, witch legend, curse, eerie forest, and the 'tree'. What's not to love about all of those things when they are put together in what could have been such a fun, creepy story? Well, when fun creepy becomes campy and silly.  
I'll start with the strongest ingredient in this book, the setting and the atmosphere.  This is definitely not a town I'd like to visit, but for a horror setting, it's perfect.  With a creepy atmosphere layering almost everything the characters do, it's the perfect setup for some scary fun.  You've got the eerie house on the hill that every kid is afraid to approach, but makes for some interesting fun nights for those same kiddos when they are dared to race up to the porch and cause some mischief.  You've got the scary forest of which almost everyone is afraid, but they don't know why.  There is the murder of the main character's father that occurred over a year ago, but people are already forgetting about for reasons the main character can't understand.  There is the current murder of two girls, but again no one seems to really remember anything much about it or seems to care.  So yes, the perfect atmosphere for a deliciously scary story.
But, the author ruins all of that with her campy, silly characters and the seemingly endless references to the eighties as if we'd forget the time period of the book.  I can deal with the over-the-top cheesy horror stuff (I have watched Scream about a dozen times or so), but there is just some stuff I couldn't let go of though.  

****Spoilers ahead.****
Let me start with Miranda and Lauren, neither of whom I liked, but for very different reasons.  Both girls are 14 and 15 years old, and yes, it's important to remember their ages as this is one of the things with which I had a huge issue.  I think if I read one more line about how all Miranda wanted to do was lose her virginity, I was going to throw the book against the wall.. Seriously?  How many times can you read about a character pushing her boobs up against a guy before you've had enough.  And if that guy wasn't good enough, there was another one with a cool car waiting just around the corner because after all, you couldn't walk to school when you were fifteen.  Can you feel the sarcasm dripping from that sentence?   And Lauren, being chased by a guy almost five years older? What is up with that? Sorry, but I have a huge problem with that. That gives a new meaning to the word creepy. What would an almost-nineteen-year-old boy want from a fourteen year old girl? Yes, they could be friends, but this is not what happened. And neither of these characters were a treat to those around them either, to their parents or to most of the other characters or to each other, and they were supposed to be best friends.

The one character I really did like was Lauren's little brother. At four years old, he was sharp as a tack and understood things about people and the town he really should not have known at his age, but this was a novel about the paranormal so it worked.  I thought the scenes he was in were the highlight of this book.
At first, the eighties references were fun and nostalgic, but then they didn't stop.  And they really did detract from the story.  I can deal with the horror tropes as they show up everywhere, and are sometimes kind of fun, but when you mix both of these together, and they go on and on, but not always in a good way, I was ready to bang my head against the wall. 
I really feel bad about my going off on this book as I really tried to like it which is why I continued with it rather than DNFing it.  The plot itself had a tendency to drag on and relied more on gore rather than scare, neither of which were done effectively.  Again, the atmosphere, the setting, and Lauren's little brother were the redeeming features of this book. 
The Ghost Tree had so much potential, but unfortunately, it didn't live up to the fun horror tropes and eighties nostalgia that it could have.   I am not against taking campy tropes and using them in these types of novels, but when they don't go anywhere, it just leaves you feeling letdown, waiting for that big moment, and then nothing happens.  It was quite easy to figure out who the 'big bad monster' was in this one as the author plays it straight and narrow with no surprising twist that would have been so much fun.  While I don't recommend this book, I do recommend you take a look at some of this author's other works as they are quite interesting, like her Black Wings series and her retelling of Captain Hook called Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook



Post a Comment