I am so here for the vampires coming back! Maybe they were never gone, but for me there was a distinct lull in vampire stories. But they’re back now! So I was so excited for Direwood, this YA debut horror. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts on my latest vampire read.
No one ever pays attention to sixteen-year-old Aja until her perfect older sister Fiona goes missing. In the days leading up to Fiona’s disappearance, Aja notices some extraordinary things: a strange fog rolling through their idyllic suburban town, a brief moment when the sky seems to rain blood, and a host of parasitic caterpillars burrowing their way through the trees. Aja’s father, the neighbors, and even her ex-friend Mary all play down this strange string of occurrences, claiming there must be some natural explanation. It seems everyone is willing to keep living in denial until other teens start to go missing too.
Aja is horrified when she meets Padraic, the vampire responsible for all the strange occurrences. His hypnotic voice lures her to the window and tells her everything she’s longed to hear—she’s beautiful and special, and he wants nothing more than for Aja to come with him. Aja knows she shouldn’t trust him, but she’s barely able to resist his enthrallment. And following him into the woods may be the only way to find Fiona, so she agrees on one condition: He must let her leave alive if she is not wooed after one week. Though Aja plans to kill him before the week is out, Padraic has his own secrets as well.
In the misty woods, Aja finds that Padraic has made his nest with another vampire in a dilapidated church infested by blood-sucking butterflies. Within its walls, the vampires are waited on and entertained by other children they’ve enthralled, but there is no sign of Fiona. Before her bargain is up, Aja must find a way to turn her classmates against their captors, find her sister, and save them all—or be forced to join the very monsters she wants to destroy.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
Let me just begin this review with what I liked. I enjoyed the atmosphere immensely. There’s this almost sinister shadowy feeling to the scenes. And half the time I wasn’t sure what Aja would stumble upon. While it definitely feels horror-lite, in a market where I am searching for horror and thrills, I do think that Direwood has the tendrils of smoke. Additionally I enjoyed the ways Yu plays around with vampires. With their manipulation and cynicism. There have been so many varied approaches to vampires recently. Whether they are purely blood soaked feasts or seemingly ‘re-discover’ their humanity.
And while I’m not sure if these ‘questions’ are ever resolved – that may not be the purpose – I appreciated Yu’s depiction of the vampires. But while I was drawn to Aja’s relationship to her sister, I found that the middle dragged a bit. It was a loyalty and love I understood in principle, but failed to feel it in the pit of my stomach. I’m not sure if it’s because Aja has a complicated relationship with her sister – I’m the queen of complex siblings – but in general I was a bit confused about the motivations of the (main) characters.
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Direwood has premise and I enjoyed the mystery and twists, I just needed a bit more to fully capitalize on the horror and terror. Throughout Yu asks us how much we know about a person and if you are a fan of endings with promise and murkiness – in a fascinating way – then try Direwood. For what it’s trying to do, I just wish we had a bit more depth in certain aspects. Find Direwood on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, Bookshop.org & The Book Depository.