Saturday, February 11, 2017

The May Queen Murders by Sarah Jude: Book Review

 
The May Queen Murders
Author: Sarah Jude

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016
Age: 12 up, Young Adult
Reviewer: Sharon M. Himsl
Pages: 288




Sixteen-year-old Ivy Templeton knows Rowan’s Glen all too well. She has lived in the Missouri Ozarks among the hill folk her entire life. In Rowan's Glen, the girls wear long skirts, the boys wear trousers and suspenders. At school they are outcasts, considered a cult, but truth be told, superstition permeates their very culture and way of life. 

Ivy and the other girls in the Glen wear red bracelets to ward off evil. A scissor falling on the floor is a bad sign or a clock stopping at four forty-four, a death omen, and Ivy has witnessed both lately. Frightening dreams foretell something dreadful. When Ivy sees a “shadow self,” another death omen, she realizes the shadow belongs to Heather, her cousin and best friend. 

Heather has been drifting away lately and Ivy wonders if she has a secret boyfriend, but why then is she being so secretive? Heather wanders off at night and everyone in the Glen knows it isn’t safe to be alone at night. Ivy fears for Heather's life, especially now that she's been elected as the new May Queen at school. Years ago, before Ivy was born, someone murdered a May Queen. 

Most believe she was murdered by Birch Markle, a mentally deranged local who disappeared into the woods after the murder never to be seen again. It's the main reason the hill folk avoid the woods today. Most belief he's still there hiding out somewhere. Screams are common in the woods at night, and lately animals have been showing up dead, killed by human hands the authorities claim. 

Ivy seeks comfort in the arms of Rook, a boy she has long known and loved. A romance grows, but fate is against them from the start. As they unravel the mystery of 'what's happening to Heather' they uncover a murder that seemingly had nothing to do with Birch Markle at all, but everything to do with Rook’s father. A string of murders follows to cover up the crime, including the shocking murder of Heather. She apparently knew too much. 

Fair warning, this is a dark story. There is a particularly gruesome, bloody chapter at the end that sends readers on a horrific “slash and cut” roller coaster. It's not even clear if Rook and Ivy will survive the grisly ordeal, and you find yourself bracing for the worst, but I won't spoil the ending for you. Needless to the say, the surviving characters are forever haunted when the dust settles.

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