In the woods of their childhood, Gretchen and Ansel lost their sister - even as the three held hands and ran from the sounds, she was snatched away from them. Their mother died from grief, their father mourns still, their stepmother finally pushing the now-teen siblings out of their home.
Driving as far away as their old car and their savings will carry them, they roll to a stop near Live Oak, a small South Carolina community that's dwindling away as modern life tempts its young people away to the big city. Young chocolate-maker Sophia invites them to stay with her at the charming sweetshop outside of town, lonely after her father and sister have left. Her candy creations taste magical; her hospitality is warm and authentic.
The townspeople of Live Oak are rather wary of the newcomers, but do warn them of strange occurrences in the woods near Sophia's place and even about Sophia herself. The missing persons posters in the Post Office all feature older teen girls - if they just moved away to the city as Sophia says, why haven't they contacted their families?
As Sophia's famous girls-only chocolate festival approaches, Gretchen meets a young man who claims knowledge about the monsters in the woods, monsters that sound like the ones in her recurring nightmares about her twin's disappearance.
Can Gretchen trust Samuel when folks in Live Oak say he's part of the trouble in the woods? Is there a link between the chocolate festival and the disappearing teens? Have she and Ansel walked into a trap created by their own past?
Mature readers will shiver with this spooky, enthralling take on the Hansel and Gretel story - keep the lights on, windows locked, and shades drawn against what may be lurking in the woods near your house!
Recommended by: Katy Manck, Librarian-at-Large (retired academic/corporate/school librarian), Gilmer, Texas, USA
Part fairy tale, part fantasy, part romance and part paranormal, girls will like this tale of a brother and two sisters who get lost in a forest. Gretchen remembers a witch chasing them and her witchy yellow eyes burning through the forest. Somehow, they lose their sister, Gretchen's twin.
Ansel and Gretchen's mother mourns the loss of her child and is never the same. Her father remarries an evil stepmother who kicks the kids out when their father dies. On the road and nearly out of money, their Jeep breaks down outside a small town named Live Oak near the beach in South Carolina. The town is creepy and nearly deserted; the brother and sister are not welcomed by Southern hospitality. In fact, people in Live Oak stick to their own business and try not to speak to outsiders at all.
Lucky for the kids, a man they meet in the diner offers to drive them back to their Jeep to pick up their suitcases and offers to drop them off at a chocolate shop outside of town where the owner Sophia needs a handyman to complete a few jobs around her house and shop. On their way out of the diner, a teen boy stops Gretchen and warns her about Sophia -- to stay far away from her and not to trust her.
The candy shop is beautiful and magical; the scent of vanilla is cloying and draws customers as if by magic into the shop. The confections Sophia creates affect her customers’ moods.
Soon, Gretchen is helping Sophia in the shop and Ansel is mending the roof and the fences. Life is idyllic until Gretchen goes for a walk in the woods at night (having seen a witch take her sister, you would think she would never enter a wooded place -- but she ate lemon candies, which caused her to be brave). Gretchen runs for her life, and Samuel -- the boy from the diner--shoots the "witch." He calls them Fenris, or werewolves.
Soon, it will be time for the annual chocolate festival that Sophia puts together for all the girls of Live Oak. There's only one problem: girls go missing each year right after the festival. Townfolk believe they're being snatched and murdered and blame Sophia and her festival. This year, Sophia is having trouble getting her RSVP invitations back. Girls are afraid to attend.
The festival is just around the corner and Gretchen and Samuel practice shooting rifles. Something is out in the woods and something is stealing the town's young girls. Sophia is keeping a few dangerous secrets and Ansel is falling in love with her.
Readers who liked Shiver, Twilight, and other vamp/wolf books will be drawn to this one. The cover is wickedly appealing -- at first glance, it appears to be a house in the woods, but on closer inspection, it's an evil witch's face. Great cover appeal and the quote from Becca Fitzpatrick (Hush, Hush trilogy), "If you love your romance hot, your bad guys downright dirty, and your heroines real enough to bleed, this is your book!" will attract legions of teen book-store browsers to want a copy of their own.
Recommended grades 7-up. A couple of curse words that network television allows. No sex. A couple of kisses.
Recommended by Pamela Thompson, MLIS., Library Media Specialist, Texas, USA
visit her ya novels blog at http://booksbypamelathompson.blogspot.com/
now a featured blog on the Texas Library Association webpage http://www.txla.org/member-blogs