Sunday, July 31, 2022

Book Review: The Children on the Hill by Jennifer McMahon

Title: The Children on the Hill
Publication Date: April 26th 2022
Print Length: 352 pages
Genre: Thriller
A genre-defying new novel, inspired by Mary Shelley’s masterpiece Frankenstein, which brilliantly explores the eerie mysteries of childhood and the evils perpetrated by the monsters among us.

1978: at her renowned treatment center in picturesque Vermont, the brilliant psychiatrist, Dr. Helen Hildreth, is acclaimed for her compassionate work with the mentally ill. But when she's home with her cherished grandchildren, Vi and Eric, she’s just Gran—teaching them how to take care of their pets, preparing them home-cooked meals, providing them with care and attention and love.

Then one day Gran brings home a child to stay with the family. Iris—silent, hollow-eyed, skittish, and feral—does not behave like a normal girl.

Still, Violet is thrilled to have a new playmate. She and Eric invite Iris to join their Monster Club, where they catalogue all kinds of monsters and dream up ways to defeat them. Before long, Iris begins to come out of her shell. She and Vi and Eric do everything together: ride their bicycles, go to the drive-in, meet at their clubhouse in secret to hunt monsters. Because, as Vi explains, monsters are everywhere.

2019: Lizzy Shelley, the host of the popular podcast Monsters Among Us, is traveling to Vermont, where a young girl has been abducted, and a monster sighting has the town in an uproar. She’s determined to hunt it down, because Lizzy knows better than anyone that monsters are real—and one of them is her very own sister.

The Children on the Hill takes us on a breathless journey to face the primal fears that lurk within us all.

I read Jennifer McMahon's book The Invited and liked it, so when I read the synopsis for her new book, The Children on the Hill, I was well intrigued. I decided to give it a read and ended up liking it.

The plot of The Children on the Hill definitely piqued my interest. The book switches between two different years. I was drawn into each time frame. I felt like I was right beside each narrator as their story was being told. Most of the story takes place in Vermont, and I felt that through McMahon's writing, I was transported to each location in Vermont. I was interested in Vi's and Eric's monsters. I also was rooting for Vi to solve Lily's mystery of where she came from. I wanted to know what Gran's secret was for being super successful. I had to know more. This book left no cliff hangars, and I was glad that all my questions were answered. I would have liked to know more about certain characters such as where they came from, but I understand why the author didn't include it in the book. There are a couple of big plot twists in The Children on the Hill. I guessed one right before it was mentioned, but I really didn't see the other one coming. (Kudos to Jennifer McMahon on that!) As for the pacing, there were times that it slowed down to the point where I would get a little bored and take a break. However, the pacing would quickly pick back up. In the last quarter or so of the book, the pacing is done brilliantly, and I didn't want to put the book down at all!

I enjoyed the characters from The Children on the Hill. McMahon did a fabulous job with making each and every character feel realistic instead of make believe. Violet was such a vibrant child, and I enjoyed reading about her quest for knowledge no matter the cost. She was definitely quite the detective! Lily was an enigma that I couldn't figure out at first, but I really liked reading about her. It was interesting to watch her grow each day around Vi and Eric. Lizzy was also a likeable character, and I admired how determined she was to find her sister and solve the mysteries of the missing girls. Gran/Dr. Hildreth came across as a sweet old woman, but I always suspected she was up to something. I had my reservations about her, so I enjoyed reading to find out if my suspicions were correct. McMahon did an excellent job presenting Gran/Dr. Hildreth as a sweet grandmotherly type to Eric and Vi.

Trigger warnings for The Children on the Hill include some profanity, murder, violence, torture, kidnapping, and gaslighting.

All in all, The Children on the Hill is a book with a solid plot featuring a small cast of characters that are interesting to read about and how far they'll go for their cause. The plot will leave you guessing as you try to make it all make sense (though everything will be explained by the end of the book). I would absolutely recommend The Children on the Hill by Jennifer McMahon to those aged 17+ who love trying to figure out a thrilling mystery. This is one book you'll definitely want to pick up!

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