The Darkest Part of the Forest, by Holly Black

Holly Black returns to faery themes with The Darkest Part of the Forest, the
story of Hazel and Ben and their tumultuous childhood growing up on the edge of
the world of the fae.  The town of
Fairfold has always been steeped in magic and mystery.  If you don’t want to get hurt, you must
act in the right way.  Don’t do
something that makes you seem like a tourist.  For the most part, it works.  But something has been happening and suddenly the oddness of
Fairfold is giving way to the danger of Fairfold, and Hazel must figure out why
before it’s too late.

Black
has a knack for the slow reveal, holding on to her secrets as long as
possible.  The story might be
slightly more satisfying in the end had she doled out more hints throughout the
plot, but there is enough going on that the reader is not left bored or
confused long enough for it to really detract from the story.  The
Darkest Part of the Forest
gets its strength from delving into Hazel and
Ben’s past.  Both have grown up
smart and resourceful, capable of great things.  Black’s story shows how sometimes children know or
understand more than they realize, and they have coping mechanisms that they
use to hide uncomfortable truths even from themselves.  Hazel finds herself leading a double
life, in more ways than one.

The
driver of the novel’s plot is the glass casket that lies on the edge of the
forest, within which is trapped a sleeping faery boy.  For as long as the town can remember, this casket has been
there, the boy never waking.  Until
one day the casket is shattered and he is gone.  No one can decide what it means, but everyone has guesses,
and being wrong could cost many people their lives.  The Darkest Part of
the Forest
is a story of acceptance and moving past old prejudices, a story
of new beginnings and coming to terms with old hurts.  Ben, Hazel, and many other characters learn to trust
themselves and each other, and to embrace the many facets of themselves. 

The Darkest Part of the Forest is a bold
look at the juxtaposition of childhood and faery tales, and teen readers will
enjoy the ways that Black unravels that connection with compelling characters
and a well-developed story. 
Readers interested in both the world of faery and the medieval world of
knightly chivalry will find themselves enraptured by the story of a young girl
who dreams of being a knight, with her brother a bard, fighting evil
together.  This is a story that
will appeal to both teens and adults, however Black has a talent for writing to
teens, and realistically addresses the concerns of teens growing up and
learning to deal with a world that doesn’t always understand them.

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