Katherine Tegen Books; May 6, 2014.
Twelve-year-old Kara no longer bothers to expect life to be easy. Ever since the night her mother was tried as a witch, life has been hard for her family. Villagers who were once kind have turned cruel, for their religion preaches the eradication of all magic. Kara copes with her difficult life unbelievably well. She manages to hold her little family together, though that should be her father’s job. He seems to have lost his will to function, so Kara has been effectively in charge since the age of six. Kara’s brother, in her care since infancy, is as young and sickly as he is charming.
As social pressure at school and in the village mounts against Kara, she finds herself drawn into the Thickety, a forbidden and dangerous part of the island. There she finds a grimoire, a witch’s spell book and begins an adventure into the area most feared and forbidden by her people, the practice of magic.
The Thickety pulls readers into another world where the rules and religion are changed and the wild creatures alarming. The story is a dark one. Kara is a strong and appealing character, but the depth of trouble that she must navigate virtually alone might turn off some readers. Though she keeps plodding on, it is difficult for me to imagine how she coped when there was so much hardship in her life and so much negativity in her world.
White builds the mystery of The Thickety and the creatures there well, providing a strong motivation to read. Though I prefer a story with more levity and a good measure of hope, I am intrigued enough with the people and the island to want to know how this fringe group came to live in such an inhospitable place. I also want to know what happens to Kara and her family. I couldn’t help but be drawn in and wonder what will come in successive books—and given the cliffhanger at the end, I’m certain more are coming.
The Thickety is a good read for older middle grade or young adult readers who enjoy mystery and magic. It may appeal more to those who favor dystopias than to tenderhearted readers. At almost 500 pages it’s not a short book, but its driving pace kept me reading quickly, and I think young readers will have the same experience.