The Forest Demands Its Due

Quill Tree/HarperCollins/. Oct. 2023. 432p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780063260795.
Gr 9 Up–A centuries-old curse plagues a prestigious academy nestled in a Vermont forest in this fantasy/horror novel. Douglas Jones, a queer, Black teenager from Washington, DC, is given a fresh start at Regent Academy in the aftermath of a deadly apartment fire he was unfairly accused of causing. However, he feels isolated and frustrated at the predominately white school, and is unnerved by strange voices he alone hears emanating from the Atolas Forest. Unease turns to horror when a student is murdered there, and no one other than Douglas and the groundskeeper, Everett Everley, even remember the student’s existence. Douglas learns that this is due to an ancient curse, and that he was brought to Regent because the Headmaster believes Douglas holds a unique power that can end it. With the aid of Everett, 17, Douglas works to understand his powers, unravel the mystery surrounding the curse, and ultimately confront a presence that inhabits the heart of the forest. The book shines in developing compelling motivations for its central characters, but a romance between Douglas and Everett feels forced, and the book’s resolution is uneven and chaotic. There are a few scenes depicted that might be too graphically violent for younger or more sensitive readers.
VERDICT The action and suspense are a good fit for fans of both horror and dark academia, though veterans of the genre may find parts of the story uninspiring. A solid choice for larger collections.

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