Seventeen-year-old Phoenix has spent much of her life drifting from town to town with her mom Nina, using their charms to swindle and steal to get by. Now they've made it to their ultimate destination, Mom's hometown of Jasper Hollow. The plan: bring down Ellis Bowman, the man who ruined Nina's life. When Phoenix gets caught spying on Ellis, she spins a convincing story that inadvertently gives her full access to the Bowman family. As she digs deeper into their secrets (and begins to fall for daughter Melody), she finds herself entrenched in the tale of a death and a disappearance that doesn't entirely line up with what Mom has told her. But there's even more to this story Phoenix doesn't know. Who, if anyone, is telling the whole truth about what happened? Debut author Brooke Lauren Davis explores the murkiness of right and wrong, of choices and consequences, of heroes and villains, in an eerily compelling and thought-provoking small-town saga.
The Hollow InsideFeatured
Secrets cannot stay buried, and unexpected truths will be revealed from all sides. Phoenix must figure out who she is and who she wants to be, while balancing the new people she has met and the truths her mother told her long ago.
What I loved: This was a surprising and twisty read, and I really did not see all the end reveals coming. This is really a book that keeps the reader on their toes, and I loved seeing both the present, and the interludes from the past, so that we can understand the events that led to Nina becoming who she is. The characters were endlessly fascinating, not only the ones that Phoenix is helping to reveal, such as Ellis, but also the ones she meets along the way, including his family. I found Phoenix really compelling, and I really appreciated getting to know Melody and Jill as well.
Nina was a complex character with her own challenges that help to set the stage for the current events, and her past perspective shows how young people can be manipulated and abused by those in power around them. This was a really potent perspective with the shame, self-blame, and powerlessness that people can feel in similar situations. Phoenix also has things to learn about herself and the truths of what she has been told, as her life has been molded by those around her with some parallels to the past.
Other themes around appearances vs reality and bullying were also thought-provoking. Celebrities may appear one way when their lives speak another, darker truth. Gaslighting and manipulation abound to make one question oneself and those around them. These themes around appearances and powerful people were intriguing and raised some important questions. In a small town, bullying around LGBT identities and shunning techniques were also conveyed to show the darker side of the seemingly idyllic community. Although a lesser theme, it was also worth the discussion.
Final verdict: Riveting, atmospheric, and shocking, THE HOLLOW INSIDE is a fascinating and twisty YA thriller that is sure to leave the reader reeling. This is a really unique story, and I would definitely recommend for people who enjoy thrillers, including books like SADIE, JANE ANNONYMOUS, and THE PROJECT.