Black, Holly. The Darkest Part of the Forest. 2015. New York. Little, Brown.
Hazel and her older brother, Ben, live in Fairfold, a mysterious town where humans and the fae exist side by side. In the darkest part of the forest a glass coffin sits, and inside the coffin sleeps a beautiful cursed prince with horns atop his head. Tourists drive in to see the wonders of Fairfold and the horned boy lying in the glass coffin. But somehow, they always fail to see the danger, and every once in a while, they go missing. Like everyone else, Hazel and Ben are intrigued by this horned boy and have been telling each other stories about him since they were children. These stories do not include the kind of faeries that make cruel bargains, but the rare kind that grant humans blessings. However, as Hazel grows up Hazel puts all those stories out of her mind, as there is no way the horned boy will ever wake. Until one day, he does. The world turns upside down as the horned boy is awakened from his cursed slumber. Nobody knows why or how he awakened, except for Hazel and Ben.
This book introduces you to a very complex yet still simple world. Society is still mostly the same except for the twist that there is a town where Faeries and humans practically live side-by-side. The point of view is told in third person and alternates between following the main character, Hazel, her brother Ben, and their best friend Jack. At first, Hazel comes off as a bratty and stubborn teenager who goes to parties and is good at flirting with guys. However, as we begin to uncover more of her past, we learn she has many other issues. When Hazel was just a child, she made a bargain with the Alder King to help send Ben to music school. In return, the Alder King would take 7 years of Hazel’s life. Fast forward to the present, and it becomes evident that something is wrong with Hazel. It all starts with the horned boy waking up.
Ben is both very similar and different from Hazel, which makes sense considering they are siblings. Ben was blessed with the ability to play music as beautifully as a fairy. Ben sees his talent as a curse and at the age of 14, he smashed his hand against his door when he decided he couldn’t take another moment of it. Both he and Hazel have a small part of them that is in love with the sleeping horned boy. So, when he wakes up, they both have their motives to ally with him.
Jack is Ben’s best friend, which puts him in an odd place when he starts developing feelings for Hazel. Jack is also a changeling. This means that he is a fairy that was secretly substituted for a mortal family’s baby at birth. In his case, the mortal family found out but still decided to keep him. Jack is not sure where his loyalties lie. He loves his mortal family and is thankful for their care in raising him, but another part just dreams of being with his own kind.
Black is very good at being able to write a contemporary fantasy novel while intertwining the worlds of mortal vs. paranormal creatures. She has done this in her previous novel, The Coldest Girl In Coldtown. This type of writing style is becoming very popular in the YA world.
“Hazel and Ben’s twinned sibling rivalry and love is beautifully complex, and their relatable human yearnings for the objects of their affections anchor the novel.” – The New York Times Book Review
“Best-selling Black has a long list of hits, and this grim fairy tale should add to it.” – Booklist
Book Clubs could talk about how complex the world of the Alder King is, and how you think you could do at one of his parties. If you were Jack, would you choose your true fae family, or the mortals who raised and loved you? Groups could discuss how truly crazy it is if you knew that you were being controlled at night and not having any remembrance of what you did. Others may want to discuss the intricate world of fae and humans living side-by-side yet the realism of the relationship between Hazel and Jack. A last topic could be the love quadrilateral going on between Hazel, Jack, Ben, and the Prince.
Reviewed by T. Parsick (Student)