Wolf Hollow - Lauren Wolk

Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.
The year I turned twelve, I learned how to lie. I don't mean the small fibs that children tell. I mean real lies fed by real fears--things I said and did that took me out of the life I'd always known and put me down hard into a new one. It was the autumn of 1943 when my steady life began to spin, not only because of the war that had drawn the whole world into a screaming brawl, but also because of the dark-hearted girl who came to our hills and changed everything.
Thus begins Wolf Hollow, a quiet and uneasy novel that explores the necessity of lies, the complicatedness of truths, and the unfair biases that sit in the hearts of those we consider to be "good." I received a copy of this book from a friend with absolutely no preconceived notions about what the narrative, the characters, the plot, or anything else. The story takes place over a short period of time, from the appearance of Betty, the strange dark-hearted girl from the synopsis, to her disappearance and the conclusion a few short days after that.

Annabelle, the protagonist, is understandably frightened and angry as Betty continues to bully her both at school and on the road home. Her brothers are entertaining and bring some lightness to the story. Her Aunt Lily, her grandparents, and her parents, are all sympathetic individuals, working to support Annabelle's decisions and protect Toby as he is being hunted by the authorities. And even though Aunt Lily is sometimes annoyingly obtuse, she does come around to a degree throughout the novel. Toby is probably my favourite character. Wolk tells her audience as much about Toby through what she doesn't write as through what she does. Annabelle's revelations about his characters, though spotty, give much to think about and allow readers to grasp what trials he has been through that have caused him to become the man he is.

Perhaps the one character I was not satisfied with was Betty. I realize that an antagonist is necessary, and that Betty made sure there was a plot to make the book work, but I felt as though her backstory could have been more developed. What made her so dark-hearted? Why did she hate Toby and Annabelle so much? Even the other bully, Andy, had redemptive moments, however small. This was my one minor quibble, but it does not make the book less worth reading.

Wolf Hollow is a novel to be read with care. Readers will need to be attentive and read with an open mind to fully enjoy the world and tale that Wolk has crafted.

Definitely Recommended!

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