Ellerie Downing is waiting for something to happen. Life in isolated Amity Falls, surrounded by an impenetrable forest, has a predictable sameness. Her days are filled with tending to her family's beehives, chasing after her sisters, and dreaming of bigger things while her twin, Samuel, is free to roam as he wishes. Early town settlers fought off monstrous creatures in the woods, and whispers that the creatures still exist keep the Downings and their neighbors from venturing too far. When some townsfolk go missing on a trip to fetch supplies, a heavy unease settles over the Falls. Strange activities begin to plague the town, and as the seasons change, it's clear that something is terribly wrong. The creatures are real, and they're offering to fulfill the residents' deepest desires, however grand, for just a small favor. These seemingly trifling demands, however, hide sinister intentions. Soon Ellerie finds herself in a race against time to stop Amity Falls, her family, and the boy she loves from going up in flames.
Around that time, the townspeople begin seeing mutated animals and aggressive creatures in the woods that surround their village. The fear of the woods is growing, and after a vote, they decide not to send another supply run. As more strange and horrible occurrences begin to happen, crops are ruined, and neighbors turn on each other, the town may not be able to make it through the winter.
What I loved: The creepy, isolated atmosphere adds to the spooky writing to make this a captivating mystery. It is a relatively quiet horror, with some terrible scenes, but most feel as though they are told by unreliable narrators, people shaken by what they have seen and not certain of what their eyes saw. In this world, no one seems trustworthy.
Ellerie and her sisters made for compelling characters, and I was eager to see how they would make it through in a world not designed for them. Ellerie is tenacious and responsible, but she also wants to fall in love and protect her family. The mysterious trapper in the woods was an intriguing addition to the story, and he teaches the importance of name, the value of a little luck, and the power of a kind heart. Even though there is something strange about him, he oft provides a feeling of normalcy in a world that feels anything but.
The major theme of the story is around human nature and what hides behind the social veil of niceties. The story questions how well you know the people around you and what terrible things they would be willing to do with the right suggestion. Altogether, the tension, escalating troubles, and supernatural elements have the reader wondering how anyone will make it out alive.
Final verdict: Spooky, atmospheric, and captivating, SMALL FAVORS is an enchanting YA fantasy/horror that will keep the reader on their toes. Highly recommend for fans of WHITE FOX, THE GIRL FROM THE WELL, and ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD.