Heartwood Box

Tor Teen. Jul. 2019. 336p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780765397645.
Gr 8 Up–Araceli Flores Harper has been sent to spend her senior year of high school in a small town in upstate New York, in a ramshackle Victorian mansion, with a great-aunt she has never met. When she finds an old box in the attic, she begins corresponding with a soldier from the First World War. Then Araceli learns that people have been disappearing mysteriously for years, and there are strange lights and occurrences around a security-laden research compound in the woods. This is a unique and genre-bending tale; there are elements of a historical romance, a science fiction ghost story, and a spy thriller. However, the writing style, especially at the beginning of the novel, seems heavy-handed. Rather than setting the scene of an eerily empty small town, the narrator states that it is a strange place without much description. The rushed style may be due to the author attempting to cover so many different plotlines at once—Araceli is the new girl at school, falling in love with a World War I soldier and uncovering an underground experiment—but the way Aguirre ties together the disparate threads makes for a satisfying conclusion. A unique and exciting story imperfectly executed.
VERDICT An additional purchase but with cross-genre appeal

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