Page Street Kids
Published September 20, 2022
In this velvet-clad 1990s gothic horror, Aja encounters a charming vampire who wants to lure her into the woods—just like her missing sister.
No one ever pays attention to sixteen-year-old Aja until her perfect older sister Fiona goes missing. In
the days leading up to Fiona’s disappearance, Aja notices some extraordinary things: a strange fog
rolling through their idyllic suburban town, a brief moment when the sky seems to rain blood, and a
host of parasitic caterpillars burrowing their way through the trees. Aja’s father, the neighbors, and
even her ex-friend Mary all play down this strange string of occurrences, claiming there must be some
natural explanation. It seems everyone is willing to keep living in denial until other teens start to go
Aja is horrified when she meets Padraic, the vampire responsible for all the strange occurrences. His
hypnotic voice lures her to the window and tells her everything she’s longed to hear—she’s beautiful and
special, and he wants nothing more than for Aja to come with him. Aja knows she shouldn’t trust him,
but she’s barely able to resist his enthrallment. And following him into the woods may be the only way
to find Fiona, so she agrees on one condition: He must let her leave alive if she is not wooed after one
week. Though Aja plans to kill him before the week is out, Padraic has his own secrets as well.
In the misty woods, Aja finds that Padraic has made his nest with another vampire in a dilapidated
church infested by blood-sucking butterflies. Within its walls, the vampires are waited on and entertained by other children they’ve enthralled, but there is no sign of Fiona. Before her bargain is up, Aja must find a way to turn her classmates against their captors, find her sister, and save them all—or be forced to join the very monsters she wants to destroy.
I have some mixed feelings about DIREWOOD. It definitely had a lot of creepiness to it, which I enjoyed. Even though the vampires weren’t around during the day, the caterpillars/butterflies became this constant threat and reminder that they were there and that nothing was okay. I like how they were connected to the vampires’ existence, too.
The blood rain was kind of weird, though. It’s never really explained, and it kind of gets lost in the other things happening at the end of the book.
Strangely, I think Padraic was my favorite character. I loved the way we’re never sure what to make of him. Like, obviously he’s dangerous, but he seems to take steps to protect Aja at cost to himself. I liked that my feelings about him were as mixed up as Aja’s. That felt really realistic.
On the other hand, I was frustrated by Aja’s feelings about other characters, especially her sister Fiona and her best friend Mary. I liked that her feelings were complex and the fact that she had kind of a love-hate thing going on, but it was sometimes hard for me to follow her reasoning. Sometimes she forgave things super easily that I was like wait, what? And other times she held onto things that didn’t seem fair.
On the whole, I’m glad I read DIREWOOD. I love sister books, so this definitely scratched that itch for me, even though their relationship was complicated. I also thought the spin on vampire stories with the blood-sucking butterflies was really cool. Readers who enjoyed THE IMMORTAL RULES by Julie Kagawa will like this one.
Content warning for violence and some body horror.
Recommended for Ages 14 up.
Aja and her sister are Chinese American. Other characters are white.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used somewhat frequently.
Kissing between boy and girl. References to romance between two girls.
Some characters are vampires.
The vampires feed on the humans they’ve lured into the woods. Blood-sucking butterflies drink from wounds left by the vampires. Two girls discover the body of another teenager. A vampire tortures a girl, letting caterpillars eat into her body. A girl stabs another girl.
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