They call us things with teeth. These words from Lily Rose Sullivan the night of her death haunts her seventeen-year-old sister, Finn, who has moved with her widowed father to his hometown of Fair Hollow, New York. After befriending a boy named Christie Hart and his best friend, Sylvie Whitethorn, Finn is invited to a lakeside party where she encounters the alluring Jack Fata, a member of the town’s mysterious Fata family. Despite Jack’s air of danger and his clever words, Finn learns they have things in common.
One day, while unpacking, Finn finds her sister’s journal, scrawled with descriptions of creatures that bear a sinister resemblance to Jack’s family. Finn dismisses these stories as fiction, but Jack’s family has a secret—the Fatas are the children of nothing and night, nomadic beings who have been preying on humanity for centuries—and Jack fears that his friendship with Finn has drawn the attention of the most dangerous members of his family—Reiko Fata and vicious Caliban, otherwise known as the white snake and the crooked dog.
Plagued with nightmares about her sister, Finn attempts to discover what happened to Lily Rose and begins to suspect that the Fatas are somehow tied to Lily Rose’s untimely death. Drawn to Jack, determined to solve the mystery of her sister’s suicide, Finn must navigate a dangerous world where nothing is as it seems.
Thorn Jack had me interested from not only the cover, but the mere fact that is was a modern-day retelling of Tam Lin, an old Scottish ballad. If Scotland is ever involved in anything, I AM IN.
I was expecting this to be a tale of magical realism or fantasy, though I instead received a tale of the supernatural and paranormal (there’s a slight difference between the two, believe it or not) with a gothic setting. This was a happy surprise, because I love paranormal and don’t read enough of it.
Thorn Jack delivered a good start, carrying us beside Finn settling into her new home, mourning the death of her sister. From there, we get introduced to new characters, two of which become quick friends with Finn. Creepy things start to occur around this time. Girls and boys with floral crowns and Celtic tattoos and formal dialect wedge themselves into Finn’s life, including the mysterious Jack.
I’m sure we all know where this is going.
Now I love a good romance–I do–but when paranormal beings get involved, it can be a tricky thing. It can come off as unrealistic and … well, kind of cringey. Unfortunately, this was one of these romances for me. Finn’s fascination with Jack only seemed convenient for the story. I find it unrealistic if you find someone you barely know outside of your house in the middle of the night that you would then invite them in.
I did enjoy their interactions together, especially Jack’s sass. And I do understand Finn’s curiosity, but the way she went about it was silly. Her infatuation with Jack, the boy who spoke strangely to her and refused to answer the few questions she had, who she soon figured out was something else, seemed unnecessary. I think it would’ve made more sense to have them as friends first and to then develop into a love near the end of the novel. But instead, their casual friendship quickly turned into more without either of them really knowing anything about each other.
While I was disappointed that the friendship wasn’t built up more, I do appreciate that Harbour created a solid friendship between a girl and boy without them having romantic tension. This is a quality that I feel is lacking particularly in YA literature.
Okay guys, BUT THIS SETTING. I loved it. Harbour has a luscious writing style with an eerie undertone that was able to construct this gothic setting with precision. I could imagine the abandoned buildings and the teens with glitter and floral crowns and strange make-up as if they were in front of my eyes. I could smell the dampness and the wild roses and the fire that their skin emitted. Harbour transported me into this world that was truly captivating in a strange way.
So overall, this was an enjoyable read. I do think it dragged on in some areas and I found the romance to be a bit typical and predictable, but the whole of the plot and setting was captivating. If you’re looking for a rich gothic and/or supernatural tale, I recommend you give Thorn Jack a look.