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Friday, September 20, 2013

A Compelling, Well-Written YA Amish Horror Novel? Yes, Please!

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Katie's lived all her life in a secluded Amish village, interacting very little with the "English" world outside of it.  She's content there.  Really, she is.  And while she'll probably do exactly what everyone expects her to do—be baptized into the Amish religion, marry her best friend, Elijah Miller, and stay in the community for the rest of her life—Katie just wants a little taste of the outside before making any big commitments.  That's what Rumspringa is all about.  She intends to enjoy the experience fully.  Then, and only then, will she be able to decide what she really wants for her future.  She should probably be terrified to leave the only life she's ever known—even temporarily—so why does the thought of it thrill her so?

Before Katie gets even a tiny taste of freedom, forces from the outside begin encroaching on her quiet, gentle world.  At first, it's just whispers, rumors of some nameless evil terrorizing the English.  Then, Katie gets her own glimpse, though of what she's not sure.  

To protect their people, the Amish elders close off their community, allowing no one in and no one out.  Katie wants safety as much as anyone else, but when an injured stranger is turned away without getting the help he so obviously needs, she hesitates.  Then, she hides the handsome Canadian, knowing full well that it could lead to her own banishment.  As Alex describes the horrifying things he's seen on his journey, Katie realizes that by hiding an outsider, she's putting herself and her people in more danger than even she can imagine.  Can she turn Alex out, even if it's for the greater good?  Can she risk telling the elders what she now knows, even if it leads to her own exile?  Will God protect them all from this unthinkable evil?  Or is it up to Katie to save herself and her loved ones?  As danger creeps ever closer, with everyone she's ever loved in its direct path, she'll have to decide whether to trust the elders or follow her own instincts—even if they lead her straight to hell.

The market is so saturated right now with YA dystopian and horror novels that it takes a lot to make one stand out from the crowd.  So, how does The Hallowed Ones, Laura Bickle's first YA novel, manage to do just that?  Easy.  Bickle took an old idea, changed up the setting, added an intriguing heroine, mixed in a community of interesting folk, sprinkled on some compelling philosophical questions and molded it all together using the right tools: heart-pounding action, a twisty plotline, a forbidden romance and, most of all, tight, solid prose.  Voilá!  She crafted herself a winner.  But, The Hallowed Ones goes even further than that—its more serious, contemplative tone makes it even more unique, as does its ruminations on faith, religion, and the consequences of both obedience and rebellion.  I've heard other reviewers say that because of these things, this book feels more New Adult than Young Adult.  That may be true, but it really doesn't matter—I'd recommend this one to anyone (well, anyone over 16 or so) who loves a good horror story that's as substantial as it is satisfying.  It really is that good.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of its sequel, The Outside, also a bit of The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (no F-bombs), violence/gore and mild sexual innuendo/content

To the FTC, with love:  I bought an e-copy of The Hallowed Ones from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.  


  1. Wow, such a good review! Thank you for taking the time to spell out just what the heck this book is about. My eyes crossed when I saw Amish, YA, dystopian, & horror in one review, until I reread what you said. I enjoy an Amish story now and again, and sometimes dystopian. Putting both together is such a cool idea! I also read The Forest of Hands and Teeth and really enjoyed that trilogy (which is weird because I try to avoid anything zombie).

  2. LOL -- I know! It's quite the mish mash of genres, but that's what makes the book different. I really liked it, especially because it's about more than just the monsters. I hope you enjoy it if you decide to read it!

  3. Just reading the headline of your post made me say I'm IN! Love anything Amish, ever since I was a kid. Some of the themes you mention are in my YA coming out next year so this is really intriguing. Must read this book pronto! Thanks, Susan!

    1. Oooh, that makes me even MORE excited to read your next one!

  4. Keeping my eyes open for this one!

  5. Honestly I have no idea about the YA - NA part of the review because I am going to make my self read some NA to see if there is really a difference for me.
    But I do agree this book goes beyond a good mix of elements, I am usually afraid of scary books but this one took back the vampires I love (I know it might sound like a contradiction but that i just the way I work :P) and gave us a new perspective on it, one that I couldn't have ever imagined with an heroine that is easy to relate but who's upbringing brings all these doubts.
    By the way I love the whole if this was a movie, it does show how movie rating has loosen up when other people would not let their kids read books like this but in a movie it's ok.
    Thank you very much I really enjoyed your review :D

    1. I totally agree with you. I think Bickle took something familiar (vampires) and gave it a unique twist. That really doesn't happen all that often in YA dystopian/horror.

  6. I ended up really liking this one. Thanks for the recommend. And I've never heard the term New Adult.......

    1. I'm so glad you liked it! New Adult is a new-ish term. It just means books that kind of fill the gap between teen novels and adult fiction -- usually the hero/heroine is college-aged, living on his/her own, and dealing with more serious issues than petty high school drama.


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