Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, September 2010
Rating: 4 out of 5
Seventeen-year-old Louisa Cosgrove longs to break free from her respectable life as a Victorian doctor's daughter. But her dreams become a nightmare when Louisa is sent to Wildthorn Hall: labeled a lunatic, deprived of her liberty and even her real name. As she unravels the betrayals that led to her incarceration, she realizes there are many kinds of prison. She must be honest with herself - and others - in order to be set free. And love may be the key...I didn't really know what to expect from Wildthorn. I don't usually read historical YA fiction, so it was a very different read for me. I also found the book to be incredibly refreshing because of this—a young character with all of the troubles we're used to seeing in teens (family problems, identity issues, the struggle to fit in, the discovery of love) but set in a world we've all read about in classics.
Most of the characters were extremely frustrating and one-sided, though that only brought me closer to Louisa. Though I normally would want a bit more out of the secondary characters, in this case I think I was able to relate more to Louisa because they were so impossible to like.
The story is exciting and fast-moving, for the most part. Once I got into it, I had a hard time putting it down. I do think sometimes the relationships between characters suffer because the book moves so quickly—I found the relationships developing almost out of nowhere as the story moved. Other than that, I really appreciated how exciting the story was.
Wildthorn is structured between the present story and flashbacks to Louisa's childhood and near past. At the beginning of the story before the action at Wildthorn really starts, these flashback chapters are frequent and serve to lead up to the present action. However, once Louisa is at Wildthorn, the flashback chapters sort of disappear. They return later, almost surprisingly, and I felt that I had been missing an important aspect of the book without them.
Overall, I really enjoyed Wildthorn. It was a very different read from what I'm used to and had a very exciting and often thrilling story.