Available September 27, 2016
Ashton Keller has longed for this moment every day for the last four years: the day he returns home to Gilt Hollow for revenge on the boys who ruined his life. He will do whatever it takes to clear his name and prove he didn’t murder his friend Daniel. But the town doesn’t greet him with welcoming arms, and it’s certainly not going to give up its secrets easily. Harder still, being back reminds Ashton of things he’d rather forget, like his best friend Willow.
Willow spent months writing Ashton every day after his conviction, which she believed false. She stood by him, even though all she ever got in return was silence. Now that Ashton’s back, she’s determined to steer clear. But the affection that brought them together once somehow survived their time apart. With Ashton digging up the past, Willow must decide whether to stay away or risk her own life. As the sinister truth about what happened the day Daniel died begins to emerge, Willow and Ashton realize the next murder victim may be one of them.
This story is a bit darker than the Doon series tales that Lorie Langdon wrote with Carey Corp. I wasn’t sure if there would be some kind of supernatural element here in Gilt Hollow. There isn’t, but I didn’t feel like the story needed it either.
The whole perfect pure girl falls for bad boy storyline is not a new idea. I worried that the romance elements would overshadow the rest of the story, but I think there’s actually a really great balance between the plot of solving the murder and the development of the romance.
I enjoyed the antics between her and her best friend Lisa. She was another character who kept the story from getting too swoony. I wasn’t a huge fan of the way Lisa pushed Willow to wear things outside her comfort zone, especially when the goal seemed to be to impress a boy. It’s definitely something that happens, but I guess I would have had more respect for Willow if she stuck to her guts and wore what she was comfortable with rather than trying to be someone else.
The most difficult part of the story for me was the fact that both Willow and Ashton continue to date other people as the romantic tension between them heats up. Neither of them seemed to have any feelings of guilt or remorse for basically leading their dates on or using them to gather information. I feel like at least a pause for reflection or some acknowledgement that what they were doing was wrong or hurtful would have made me like them more. Ashton’s girlfriend does have a frank conversation with him about not wanting to be used, but he doesn’t come clean with her or seem to feel that bad even when he reflects on it briefly afterward.
On the whole, I enjoyed the story, especially the mystery elements. I don’t read enough stories with this blend of mystery and romance. The suspense elements were light enough that I think even younger teens could handle them. See below for content information.
Recommended for Ages 14 up.
All major characters are white.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Two instances of mild profanity. Someone urinates on a popular boy’s football jersey. I’m disappointed in the use of profanity in the book. Blink is an imprint of Zondervan publishing books with no overt Christian message, but even so—profanity? Really? Why is this in a book by a Christian publisher?
Ashton and Willow get a little bit fresh with each other in comments that hint at sexual contact. They’re fairly oblique. A boy and girl kiss several times. Both Ashton and Willow date someone else as a means to gather information. They aren’t faithful and don’t really seem to have much remorse about it.
Willow’s pastor makes a brief appearance and offers her some spiritual advice. It’s a small moment that doesn’t drive the story, but it felt authentic.
A couple boys have a brief fist fight.
Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.