Thornhill by Pam Smy Thornhill by Pam Smy
Published by Roaring Brook Press on August 29, 2017
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Middle School, Ghost Story
Pages: 544
Format: eARC
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Parallel stories set in different times, one told in prose and one in pictures, converge as a Ella unravels the mystery of the girl next door.

1982: Mary is a lonely orphan at the Thornhill Institute For Children at the very moment that it's shutting its doors. When her few friends are all adopted or re-homed and she s left to face a volatile bully alone, her revenge will have a lasting effect on the bully, on Mary, and on Thornhill itself.

2017: Ella has just moved to a new town where she knows no one. From her room on the top floor of her new home, she has a perfect view of the dilapidated, abandoned Thornhill Institute across the way, where she glimpses a girl in the window. Determined to befriend the girl, Ella resolves to unravel Thornhill's shadowy past.

Told in alternating, interwoven plotlines Mary s through intimate diary entries and Ella s in bold, striking art Pam Smy's Thornhill is a haunting exploration of human connection, and a suspense-filled story.

Thornhill is spooky and heart-breaking. Ella is sad and lonely, but when she glimpses a girl in the window of the Thornhill Institute, she becomes obsessed with finding out who she was and what happened to her. Mary lived at the Institute in the 1980s, also a sad, lonely girl who is bullied and terrorized by the other girls.

Thornhill is at heart a ghost story. We know from the beginning that Mary’s a ghotst, but her diary entries made me cry. Her life at Thornhill was miserable, and few of the adults around her seemed competent or truly caring. Ella’s story is just as sad. I assume her father loves her, but he’s never home and her mom is gone, presumably dead. Her side of the story is depicted in black and white illustrations that are striking and add to the dark atmosphere of the novel. We know something happened to Mary, but not what.

I think this is one of those stories that a middle-schooler would enjoy. It’s just spooky enough and the ending was dark and and an appropriate, if sad, conclusion. I was talking about it quickly with my daughter and she said kids in middle school like sad books, and i’ll have to take her word for it. Thornhill It deals with big issues like bullying, revenge, and suicide, and there were adults that could have helped, but didn’t.

It’s an engrossing story, but to be honest, I wish I hadn’t read it. For me it was a depressing book. I cried through half of it and I’d like to give it 1 star for that reason. However, I gave it 4 starts because it is engrossing and relevant.

About Pam Smy

Pam Smy studied Illustration at Cambridge School of Art, part of Anglia Ruskin University, where she now lectures part-time. Pam has illustrated books by Conan Doyle (The Hound of the Baskervilles), Julia Donaldson (Follow the Swallow) and Kathy Henderson (Hush, Baby, Hush!), and her own, among others. She lives in Cambridge.