‘Holly Horror’ by Michelle Jabès Corpora: A dark and spooky twist on Holly Hobbie

This Holly Horror book review takes a spoiler-free look at Michelle Jabès Corpora’s spooky young adult novel. You’ll never look at Holly Hobbie the same way again!

I didn’t grow up on Holly Hobbie, though the imagery is iconic. It’s not difficult to recognize the sideways profile of the young girl, her face obscured by a blue bonnet. The cover of Holly Horror draws inspiration from that iconic silhouette, but ups the creep factor by about a million. The cover was one of the main reasons why I picked up this book, and I’m so glad I did.

I wasn’t sure how scary the book would be, given that it’s for a young adult audience ranging from 12 to 17 years old. I’m new to the horror genre, and I’ll admit that it doesn’t take much to make my skin crawl. Keep that in mind when I tell you this book was creepy. It was never too scary that I needed to put it down, but there were a few times I regretted reading it right before bed.

It seems prudent to use this Holly Horror book review to mention some of the horror elements the author uses throughout the novel so you can decide for yourself if you (or your child) want to pick it up. Mysterious shadows, a creepy doll, and a reflection that moves and speaks when Evie is still and silent are pretty much the worst of it, though there are some spectral elements with half rotted faces that sent a shiver down my spine, too. All in all, though, I found this book to be extremely well-written with the perfect amount of horror that gave me a chill but didn’t give me nightmares!

The book follows Evie as she moves to Ravenglass, Massachuettes with her brother and mother following her parents’ divorce. They move into their family home, and Evie soon finds out that the house—and her family—has a reputation because her mother’s cousin, Holly Hobbie, disappeared without a trace from her bedroom one night, years ago.

Immediately upon moving into the house, Evie starts to see strange shadows and experience things that can’t really be explained away by logic and reason. As much as she resisted learning anything more about the history of the house or the town in the beginning, she soon realizes that she’ll need to solve the mystery of Holly’s disappearance if she doesn’t want to suffer the same fate.

holly horror book review

Evie’s relationship with her mother is complicated, and it wasn’t hard to sympathize with the young girl’s struggles. All her mom does is work, trying to provide a life for her kids while simultaneously not being around much to enjoy it with them. She’s dismissive of Evie’s experiences and often chooses to enlist the help of other people—her sister, a therapist, a doctor—to speak to Evie about her alarming behavior.

I certainly didn’t have much sympathy for Evie’s mother for most of the book, but the author does an excellent job of providing a backstory that gives plenty of reasons for her behavior without excusing it away. When Evie and her mother finally sit down for an honest conversation, it’s as cathartic as it is timely.

Evie’s brother Stan is secondary to Evie throughout the story, but he has an important part to play in the events unfolding. As Evie’s younger brother, he gets even less attention than she does, and their relationship can sometimes be antagonistic. But just like with her mother, when the time comes for them to finally talk, they find common ground that they otherwise probably wouldn’t if events hadn’t played out the way they did.

Evie makes two friends upon her arrival to Ravenglass, each of which plays an important role in her life. Tina is the sheriff’s daughter and a budding journalist, which means she’d love nothing more than to learn everything she can about Horror House and the tragedies that occurred within its walls. She’s the main supplier of information when it comes to Holly, the mysterious Patchwork Girl, Hobbie House, and the town of Ravenglass. We can’t always trust her motivations, but she’s as interesting as she is helpful, and that’s all that really matters.

Desmond is the heir to the throne of King Quarry, which helped put Ravenglass on the map and transformed the town for the better when previous mining operations dried up. He’s a star football player and probably the most popular kid in school, but he has dreams of going to nursing school and he loves Evie’s weird, off-kilter style and the fact that she, unlike everyone else in school, doesn’t seem to want anything from him. Desmond was, far and away, my favorite part of this book because he was a mature, kind, and gentle boy who wasn’t afraid to tell Evie how he felt about her but also stood up for himself when he thought she wasn’t being honest with him.

This book pulled me in with the first chapter and wouldn’t let go until I got to the very last page. Sprinkled with bits of horror, interesting local history, stand-out characters, and a mystery that kept me guessing, the epic conclusion was even more enjoyable once all the threads Corpora had been weaving from page one came together to reveal the final tapestry.

The last note I have for this Holly Horror book review is that this novel ends on a major, major cliffhanger. It was so good, and I’m so thrilled to pick up the sequel, but I know I’m going to die a little more each day until I can get my hands on The Longest Night. Here’s to hoping it won’t be too much longer until we get some updated information about it!

‘Holly Horror’ by Michelle Jabès Corpora published on August 15, 2023

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