Guest Review: Gallows Hill by Lois Duncan

October 29, 2010 Fright Fest, Horror, Review, YA 1

Today’s guest post comes from the ever-amazing Nicole from Linus’s Blanket. I met two years ago at my first BEA (Book Expo America) and let me tell you…she’s one busy lady!  Nicole is a Manhattan based book blogger, born and raised in New York City.

An active member of the book blogging community, Nicole created and hosts the weekly Blog Talk Radio show- That’s How I Blog! Each radio show is an in-depth discussion with bloggers who share a passion for books, and features candid conversations on favorite books and reading habits, bookish topics,and recent book and blogging trends and practices. A different book is discussed each week as part of a segment entitled Twenty Minute Book Club. She also hosts the Underground Literary Society with Amy Riley.

I have always had a vivid imagination and been somewhat impressionable with respect to things I have read. As you might imagine that doesn’t necessarily make for the best set of circumstances when reading murder mysteries or tales of horror. I suffered the most from this as a tween/teenager. I was incredibly curious. I wanted to know the stories about ghouls, witches, murderers and the paranormal, but was scared to know about them at the same time. There was quite a bit of tug of war going on in my head, but my inquisitive nature usually won out, and so did the nightmares that came along with satisfied curiosity!

Lois Duncan is one of the authors who always wrote books whose premises I found intriguing. Crystal balls, astrology, astral projection, ghosts, Ouija boards, haunted houses – her work covered it all. And of course, she always has a compelling and somewhat troubled female teenage protagonist in her novels- all the better for me to strongly identify with and be vividly placed in her ghost ridden stories. This is the author I hold responsible for gifting me with one of my most enduring fears, the fear of mirrors – which incidentally is eisoptropohobia. I am not afraid of mirrors in this general way, but certainly as a child and every now and again as an adult, I have feared that I would see my reflection wink or smile at me when I knew I was doing no such thing. Creepy!

Anyway, I have lately been exploring the idea of conquering my fear of Lois Duncan novels. And though I was unable to take on my childhood nemesis, Stranger With My Face, I was able to read Gallows Hill. Duncan’s work engaged me as an adult almost as strongly and when I was a young adult reading her books. Thanks goodness there was a little less fear involved, and I was able toe enjoy the story and sleep at night. Exciting!

Gallows Hill follows the story of 17-year-old Sarah, who has been uprooted from friends and family in her senior year, moving from California to a small town in Missouri after her fiercely independent mother mysteriously falls in love and moves to be with the man she loves. As you can imagine, Sarah is none to pleased with either her mother’s choice of beau or her decision to move them at such a crucial point in her high school experience. Shortly after moving to the small town, Sarah becomes involved with Eric a popular student who wants her to play the fortune teller at the school carnival. Sarah quickly discovers that she has a natural talent with crystal balls and starts to suspect that she herself might be a witch, which doesn’t exactly go over well in the town.

Sarah was a little on the whiny side, and had that gullible quality that always makes you want to shake women in thrillers, but I loved the historical elements that Duncan introduces with links to the Salem Witch Trials and reincarnation. She does a great job of weaving these elements into the persona aspects of the story and providing information that piques your interest and sends you off to do research of your own. Duncan’s writing style has an easiness to it, but don’t let that fool you because there is a lot of depth to her characterizations, personal relationships and plots. This was an illuminating and enjoyable read and I enjoyed visiting with Duncan again after all these years. Now if I could just work up the courage to read Stranger With My Face!

One Response to “Guest Review: Gallows Hill by Lois Duncan”

  1. Lenore
    Twitter: lenoreva

    Nicole! I can’t bear to read Stranger with my Face again either! We need to form a support group :)