Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s
Publication Date: September 25, 2012
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian/Thriller
Katie is on the verge of her Rumspringa, the time in Amish life when teenagers can get a taste of the real world. But the real world comes to her in this dystopian tale with a philosophical bent. Rumors of massive unrest on the “Outside” abound. Something murderous is out there. Amish elders make a rule: No one goes outside, and no outsiders come in. But when Katie finds a gravely injured young man, she can’t leave him to die. She smuggles him into her family’s barn—at what cost to her community? The suspense of this vividly told, truly horrific thriller will keep the pages turning.
Earlier in the week I recommended a book that was a little spooky, a little melancholy and sad. Today I’m going all out and recommending an all-spooky, creepy, scary atmospheric thriller. The cover is deceptive – there’s a pretty girl, definitely. There’s also a large body count, things with glowing eyes that eat people and an Amish community that refuses to see what’s happening under their noses. Yummy!
Katie and her friend Elijah are watching the far-off highway, thinking about their upcomingRumspringa when an out of control med-flight helicopter crashes into the field in front of them. Before Katie can rescue someone she thinks might be alive inside, she thinks she sees something sinister – then she’s yanked back by Elijah and her people as the helicopter explodes.
As the cleanup after the helicopter crash and fire winds down into the evening, two of the young boys from the Amish community haven’t returned home from town yet, setting off a mild panic. An outsider visiting Katie’s family is able to find out that a curfew has been imposed, possibly related increased violence in the area. When the boys still don’t return, the Elders go to look and return home stone-faced, alone, and place the community under lockdown. No one goes out, no one comes in.
Katie has a disobedient streak however and defies the Elders and the powerful, pious Bishop. When she finds a badly wounded stranger just outside the fence, she ignores their edict and brings him inside, risking a shunning. Alex knows about the horrors outside, is willing to tell Katie his theories and they develop a strong bond as she takes even more dangerous risks for him.
Evil strikes, of course. Bickle managed to completely surprise me with the last couple of chapters though. Some books have steady action, some are up and down – The Hallowed Ones starts calm and builds and builds and ends with a big crescendo and a shocker of an ending. I loved the way the tension was handled. I do need to say it – this is a gory book. There are intestines spilled, heads removed and bodies impaled. It works in such beautiful juxtaposition to the innocence of Amish community though, it’s almost lyrical. I never thought I’d say disemboweling could be lyrical, but there it is.
As a perfect balance, Elijah, Katie’s parents, her friends and the Elders are all written with simple motives and speak plainly, as I’d expect them to, and it was comforting to read sometimes, a little oasis of predictability amongst the weird. Elijah is Katie’s long-time friend and potential husband. They’ve been planning their Rumspringa for years but with the closed gates and the disappearance of Elijah’s brothers, things have changed for him. I can’t say I liked him much even though he was probably acting perfectly normally for a young man in his position. He just treated Katie callously for someone who had known her for so long. Her parents were sweet, but it was noted that they were more affectionate than most Amish mothers and fathers. I loved her mom though, the way she called Katie liewe (dear) and pampered her when she came home covered in someone else’s blood, which seemed to happen a lot.
I’d probably run out of superlatives if I went on as long as I wanted to about how much I loved Katie. She was spunky, sweet, unbelievably strong and smart. I loved that she believed in the power of her own convictions enough that she was willing to risk so much every single day. She knew at any moment she could be discovered and it was always in her mind, but she loved her community and her family enough that she had to keep Alex safe and do the right thing. She was delightfully innocent without any worldly knowledge at all but with a love for Wonder Woman comics of all things. Her budding relationship with Alex was a sweet surprise because they were confidantes, then just friends.
My Summary: This is the perfect book to read late at night, when you’re alone and wanting a nice scare, or if you’re not quite up to it, you could just read it during a sunny day. It’s tense, thrilling and just a tad on the bloody side. The setting was brilliant, the characters perfect – I had one big complaint though. I wanted another hundred pages. More, more!
My Rating: A