Abbey and Kristen were best friends forever. Growing up side by side in the town of Sleepy Hollow, they made plans for prom and shared secret rituals - like celebrating Christmas with an eggnog toast at Washington Irving's grave. But Kristen also had secrets she didn't share with Abbey. Secrets that somehow led to her disappearance...
Months later and minus her best friend, Abbey is weighed down by her grief. She can't sleep, she doesn't care about school, and she finds herself making frequent visits to the Sleepy Hollow cemetery. It's there she meets Caspian: charismatic, puzzling, and sexy as hell.
Caspian might be the one person who can help Abbey set aside her grief for Kristen and move on. But is she ready to let go of the past?
Graveyards. I love 'em. There's something humbling about wandering among the tombstones, reading the inscriptions about people who lived and died long ago. Plus, they make a fantastic setting for an eerie and mesmerising tale like Jessica Verday's The Hollow. Especially when the graveyard in question is Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, complete with dark shadows, unearthly mists, and Washington Irving's deliciously spooky legend.
The Hollow is the kind of story that it's really hard to summarize without giving away too many of its secrets. I suppose that's why, despite the fact I'd read at least ten very mixed reviews prior to opening the book, I really didn't grasp quite what it was about until I read it for myself. As the first book in a trilogy, this instalment introduces us to main character Abbey Browning - lost in grief for her best friend, fascinated by the Legend of Sleepy Hollow and the real-life town cemetery, and falling in love for the first time with a boy she develops a deep but intangible bond with. Abbey makes for a likeable protagonist, and although she seems to fall for Caspian very quickly I found their scenes compelling. And yes, there's an element of the otherworldly.
Verday has a very descriptive style, and for me that definitely enriched the telling of the story. I felt that I experienced the world of The Hollow with all of my senses: the tantalising smell of Abbey's herbal perfumes, the crisp cold of the snow she makes angels in (without a coat), the sweet taste of snickerdoodle cookies. I know this style isn't for everyone, but I really appreciated the rich, vivid depiction of Abbey's world. It got into my head, and when I wasn't reading I found myself thinking about the characters as if I knew them. This kind of story is all about atmosphere, and The Hollow has bags of that.
I can't conclude this review without giving a special mention to the story's ending. Having closely followed Verday's carefully laid clues, I wasn't shocked by the twist at the end but there were some surprises, and I was thrilled to find that they raised as many questions as they answered. I'm intrigued to know what this twist means for Abbey and Caspian's relationship, whether we might get to meet Kristen after all, and what shape Abbey will be in next time we meet her.
In The Hollow, Jessica Verday has crafted an elegant, enchanting story of friendship and pain, love and loss. I'd recommend it to anyone who sometimes who thinks that actually, there's something magical about a graveyard.
Out: October 2009, Simon and Schuster.