Title: The Hollow
Author: Jessica Verday
Genre: Paranormal Romance Fiction
Age Group: Preteen/Young Adult
Length: 560 pages
From the back of the book: When Abbey's best friend, Kristen, vanishes at the bridge near Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, everyone else is all too quick to accept that Kristen is dead and rumors fly that her death was no accident. Abbey goes through the motions of mourning her best friend, but privately, she refuses to believe that Kristen is really gone. Then she meets Caspian, the gorgeous and mysterious boy who shows up out of nowhere at Kristen's funeral, and keeps reappearing in Abbey's life. Caspian clearly has secrets of his own, but he's the only person who makes Abbey feel normal again...but also special.
Just when Abbey starts to feel that she might survive all this, she learns a secret that makes her question everything she thought she knew about her best friend. How could Kristen have kept silent about so much? And could this secret have led to her death? As Abbey struggles to understand Kristen's betrayal, she uncovers a frightening truth that nearly unravels her—one that will challenge her emerging love for Caspian, as well as her own sanity.
Paranormal romances are a staple right now in the world of YA novels, and I know that a lot of people are either really sick of it or really love it. Personally, I love paranormal topics no matter the age group, but paranormal romances are hit and miss. This book for me was mostly one giant miss and I read on with a disgusted fascination rather than an appetite for the story as it is.
It was terrible.
My main complaint, the one that's probably responsible for 80% of my dislike for this novel, is the writing. It's simple, it's choppy, and it's dumbed down excessively. Readers who abhor cleverly worded descriptions, or really...any descriptions, will enjoy Verday's telling-not-showing style of writing. If you, however, prefer to read: "the corners of his mouth twitched upward immediately, causing his green eyes to twinkle like half-moons obscured by the soft white-blue, fragile skin underneath that now crinkled with the joy at seeing my approach." over: "he smiled at me", then you'd probably be on the same boat as me when concerning Verday's writing.
I'm all for straight to the point writing in times of, say, urgency, to match the quick, frenzied and abbreviated emotions--but mostly I enjoy fleshed out body language, some description that paints a picture rather than a crayon stick figure, or even a witty simile here or there. Unfortunately, The Hollow lacked all of these things and it took a lot for me to read beyond chapter three when I realized that the trend would continue the whole way through.
Another disappointing aspect of the novel was it's odd representations of the people around Abbey. The teenagers at her school, even her parents, said things that no real person would say ("like, she's such a loser" Does ANYONE say "loser" anymore? Wasn't that a 90's thing? Most of the teenagers read like straight out of the movie Clueless) and acted like stereotypical, cardboard stand-ins (the cheerleaders were all blonde, on diets, demanded sparkling water, were bullies, etc). Her parents were both pushy yet push-overs (the way their daughter acted on occasion was more than bratty, and they took it with a laugh and a "yes, dear") and oddly busy all the time when their daughter was supposedly going through an exceedingly painful mourning period for her ONLY friend. Everyone, with the exception of our main character, her creepy love interest, and an old couple, were described as fake, insincere, and self-absorbed. While Abbey, our misunderstood quirky teenager, was novel and amazing because she a.) enjoyed hanging out in cemeteries b.) tended towards black and blood red for her wardrobe and c.) was more of a loner than a follower.
The message I got was: Abbey so edgy-cool awesome; Everyone else so fake and boring. It was, in one word, annoying.
I won't even touch the subject of Caspian and my utter confusion as to how or even why a romance blossomed between these two. I won't even touch his very odd appearance that I can't even visualize properly because it's so...hyper-unrealistic. I will also briefly say that it was disappointing how this story started with the focus being the death of Abbey's best and only friend, but then shifts focus almost entirely to Caspian and his wtf weirdness.
The only positives I could draw from this book was the very loose connection to the novel The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and the quotes from the story that began at each chapter--the idea itself is interesting, I just wish it had been implemented more skillfully. It was also somewhat refreshing that Abbey's hobby was perfume-making and I enjoyed reading the passages that mentioned the essential oils and the methods used.
While the character of Abbey in general was one that I generally disdained, there were pieces and moments that the author gave us that made me like her just a little bit, and even empathize with her. The only, really powerful and enjoyable parts to read that Verday seemed to excel at were the moments when Abbey could no longer contain her grief and acted like a teenager in pain: brash, furiously-emotional, and dramatic. The scene where she ran to the graveyard in her prom dress during a rain storm and poured the perfume that she had made for Kristen into the river before she face planted herself into the cold water was my favorite part of the book. Verday's short and to-the-point style is suited to quick, excitable moments and it helped add to the believability to the grieving of a lonely teenager.
Upon finishing this book, there were tidbits here and there that I liked (Abbey's perfume making hobby, her love of tea, her believable dramatics associated with grieving) but a lot more that I did not enjoy at all and found distracting (too-simple descriptions or a lack thereof, cardboard characters, conversations that were not believable) and I had to keep telling myself to keep reading even when I felt like scoffing and giving up entirely. This book might be best suited to preteens/teens who either are just getting into the habit of reading outside of school or those who enjoy another teenager's daily "drama" as much as their own. I truly believe that adults (and even mature teenagers) would find the 560 pages of teenage inner monologue and "suspense" to be beyond boring and pointless.