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Storytelling Is Not Dead: Thornhill – A Review

Please check out my previous Storytelling posts here.  And my 365 Reviews here.

Oh my gosh, I have been slacking!  I have so much to tell you about the Thanksgiving weekend, including the cool stuff I was able to pick up on Black Friday, but this is a review that I’ve been meaning to get to for some time.

I frequently sub for a teacher down the hall from me during 6th period: AP Language & Comp.  In that class there is a group of students that reads comics and graphic novels, so we trade.  Not often, but we do.  And in one of those trades, this book was given to me:

Title: Thornhill

Author(s): Pam Smy

Publisher:  Roaring Book Press (2017)

Age Rating: 13+

This hefty book is part prose, part graphic novel, with each of the drawn pages appearing as splash pages like this:

This is one of the more detailed pages, showcasing the macabre feel of the horror novel.

The book centers around journal entries of a girl (Mary) that lived in an orphanage in the early 80’s.  A young girl (Ella), in the present, moves in across the street from the old orphanage (named Thornhill), and her upper-floor bedroom window overlooks the overgrown yard of the abandoned building, allowing her to see the ghosts of Thornhill roaming the grounds.

As the story progresses, Ella discovers Mary’s troubled life, and the two seem to be on a course to connect in some way, shape, or form.

The prose is well-written, and while Smy does a great job setting us up for the unpredictable through the journals of the troubled Mary, the ending is tied up in that…YA book exposing young readers to alternative Disney-endings sort of way.  As an avid reader, I was a bit disappointed by the ending, however, the more I think about it, and the more I hear student opinions of the ending, I am certain that this book ends the why that it should.

We need to get our youngsters used to engaging in endings that are not Disney or Hollywood.  Not every story follows a simple plot diagram, and if we do not expose students to unique beginnings, middles, and endings, the unique becomes jarring.  Books like Thornhill allow readers to gain experience in the abstract, and that’s an amazing thing.

While the ending was not what I was hoping for, the suspense built throughout the story was impressive.  As a reader, for the most part, it’s difficult to predict what will happen to Mary.  This may be a good YA book club title, with natural break points, perfect for discussion on prediction, character, and story development.  And since the journey comes from the early 80’s and the drawings from the present, it’s interesting to consider the literal time-lapse as it appears in the story.

A cool story told in a unique way is never a bad thing!

And if you are looking for more cool storytelling, check out my interview series here.  Should have a new one hitting on Friday!

Happy reading!


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