There was a time when I would actively seek out books with “unique formatting”. They could have been epistolary novels or verse novels. They could have been novels with doodles or comics throughout. They could have even been books that simply had font face and size changes throughout the course of the novel. Granted, this was mostly during my Scholastic Book Fair days, but still…there was a time when I found these kinds of books to be extra fun and engaging.
Unfortunately, I recently discovered my love for books with unique formatting did not transcend time, and I proceeded to thrust myself into a reading slump when I unintentionally attempted to read four such novels back-to-back. First, there was The Turning by Francine Prose, which I actually finished, but more on that later. Then there was Escape from Asylym by Madeleine Roux, which held my attention for about twenty pages but only because of the creepy photographs. Then there was Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente, whose formatting caught me off guard but I want to give a second chance when I’m more mentally prepared. And finally, there was And the Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich…
Released: September 2016
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
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When Silla and Nori arrive at their aunt’s home, it’s immediately clear that the manor is cursed. The endless creaking of the house at night and the eerie stillness of the woods surrounding them would be enough of a sign, but there are secrets too—questions that Silla can’t ignore: Why does it seem that, ever since they arrived, the trees have been creeping closer? Who is the beautiful boy who’s appeared from the woods? And who is the tall man with no eyes who Nori plays with in the basement at night… a man no one else can see?
Everyone has been reading and raving about The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich, but my library didn’t have a copy, so I picked up And the Trees Crept In instead. And actually, And the Trees Crept In was rated pretty highly on Goodreads, so I still felt as though I had picked a winner. Unfortunately, I found myself going mad from the formatting. Between several pages of prose (beautifully written, I might add), there are “handwritten” letters from Silla and Nori as well as bad poetry than holds hidden messages if you read the poem as a whole followed by just reading the words with the bold font face.
As for the story…I don’t even know how I feel about it. Part of me recognizes that there were scenes that were legitimately terrifying. I mean, they were so terrifying that I felt uncomfortable and had goosebumps, and I appreciate that. But, the novel was also kind of redundant, which makes me think this novel would have been more successful as a short story (without all of the flashy, gimicky, distracting formatting).
Also…half the time, I had no idea what was going on! Part of it was because I had no context of what was going on in the world. I had no idea when this novel was taking place. I mean, the setting was modern, so I’m not entirely sure why there was so much isolation. And I think there was some kind of war going on? But I don’t know why. And London was abandoned? So was the town that was closest to the haunted mansion? Again, I don’t know why. And then, there is this boy that comes to visit Silla and Nori, and he always brings apples, but I have no idea where he’s coming from or where he finds the apples, and for some reason, Silla doesn’t question it. So…I gave up on the novel half way through because I was getting board and nothing made sense.
I hear that the ending is absolutely mind-blowing though, and it wraps up everything that readers like myself dislike about this novel quite nicely. If you would like to spoil this novel for me, I’m all ears, because I’m actively searching through Goodreads to find a spoiler for the ending.