Monday, September 7, 2020

Review: The Ghost Tree by Christina Henry

The Ghost Tree
The Ghost Tree by Christina Henry
Berkley Books
Publication Date: September 8th, 2020
Paperback. 432 pages

About The Ghost Tree:

"When the bodies of two girls are found torn apart in the town of Smiths Hollow, Lauren is surprised, but she also expects that the police won't find the killer. After all, the year before her father's body was found with his heart missing, and since then everyone has moved on. Even her best friend, Miranda, has become more interested in boys than in spending time at the old ghost tree, the way they used to when they were kids. 

So when Lauren has a vision of a monster dragging the remains of the girls through the woods, she knows she can't just do nothing. Not like the rest of her town. But as she draws closer to answers, she realizes that the foundation of her seemingly normal town might be rotten at the center. And that if nobody else stands for the missing, she will."

I have loved every single Christina Henry book that I've read (that's six books thus far, a pretty good track record!), so I was thrilled when I saw news of The Ghost Tree's existence, and I was even more excited to receive an ARC. The Ghost Tree ended up not being quite what I expected, but I still readily enjoyed it and the themes that Henry explored. 

The Ghost Tree takes place in Smiths Hollow, a small town where everyone seems to know one another and no one ever really seems to move away. Things start to go a bit awry when two girls who are not from Smiths Hollow are found dead in Smiths Hollow and others in the town, such as Lauren, her brother, and a new police officer, begin to suspect something a little abnormal might be going on when it becomes apparent that no one else in town seems to really care...or remember what happened.

If there's one thing that Christina Henry can do well (although to be frank, Henry does a lot well!), it's build a strong atmosphere and compelling cast of character. From the beginning of this story and descriptions of Smiths Hollow and its inhabitants, you can immediately tell that there's something just a little bit off about it. Things seem to move too smoothly, yet also with an undercurrent of tension that makes things in the town seem just a little off kilter--or at least it seemed that way to me.

Similarly, the characters are all developed extremely well and have very distinct roles and personalities to set them apart, as well as create interest in their roles. We also get POVs from quite a wide array of characters, from Lauren as one of our main POVs, to Miranda (Lauren's friend), David (Lauren's brother), police officer Alex Hernandez, (Lauren's mother), the racist neighbor, and quite a few others thrown in at various points when it fit the narrative. I loved getting to see all of the happenings of this town from so many different perspectives, but I also felt that sometimes switching to all these POVs and introducing new characters or digressing on some point about them occasionally slowed the pacing down and made me impatient to continue on with the plot and find out what was going to happen next. 

Some of my favorite things about The Ghost Tree were the ways in which Henry incorporated so many different relevant themes, from her mother's struggle to connect with her daughter while also making money stretch as a single mother to Lauren's friendship struggles and Miranda's difficulty with her own development into a young woman and the expectation of men, as well as social issues such as the racism that the Hernandez family experiences and so many more compelling and important topics. 

Despite all the positives, there was something about this book that just didn't grab me as much as other books I've read from Henry. It's actually hard for me to put into words exactly why The Ghost Tree didn't work for me as much as I'd hoped. It reads very much like an homage to classic 80s horror with a modern twist and Sleepy Hollow vibes. Although I liked the 80s horror influence, I also think that this is possibly where I found myself not connecting with the story as much as I usually do with Henry's books. I felt that a lot of the plot points seemed a bit too predictable and as a result a lot of the slower moments that build up to the big plot twists ended up making the overall pace of the book drag a bit. 

I don't want this review to come off as negative because I did really enjoy this book and would absolutely recommend it, but I wouldn't necessarily go into it expecting something fast-paced or overly fresh. There are certainly a variety of fresh elements added to this narrative, but the basic bones of the story didn't stand out as something new to experience. 

Overall, I'm giving The Ghost Tree four stars! I found the overall story very compelling, but I did think that the pacing was a little off and slow at times and this story just lacked a little something that I'm used to with Christina Henry's books. Still, I can't wait for her next release already!

*I received a copy of The Ghost Tree in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the novel.*


  1. I almost rated this 4 stars but as I was writing my review I realized there were just too many things I didn't like, so my rating went down a bit. Not my favorite of hers, but still, she will always be a favorite writer😁

  2. I haven't read enough of her stuff! This sounds like it would be perfect for fall!