Thank you NetGalley and HMH Books for Young Readers for providing an e-Arc in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: May 3rd, 2016
Synopsis: Stay on the roads. Don’t enter the woods. Never go out at night.
Those are the rules in Rowan’s Glen, a remote farming community in the Missouri Ozarks where Ivy Templeton’s family has lived for centuries. It’s an old-fashioned way of life, full of superstition and traditions, and sixteen-year-old Ivy loves it. The other kids at school may think the Glen kids are weird, but Ivy doesn’t care–she has her cousin Heather as her best friend. The two girls share everything with each other–or so Ivy thinks. When Heather goes missing after a May Day celebration, Ivy discovers that both her best friend and her beloved hometown are as full of secrets as the woods that surround them.
Based on the synopsis I was really excited about reading The May Queen Murders. I thought it was going to be a modern day southern gothic. While it definitely had that flavor, there were a few flaws that kept this from being a perfect read for me. The first concerns the relationship between Ivy and her cousin Heather which is at the heart of this story. Ivy is a sweet girl whose love for her cousin borders on adoration. While it’s obvious that Heather returns that love, she tends to take Ivy for granted. Before her disappearance Heather is yearning to leave Rowan’s Glen, but she takes her feelings out on Ivy and it’s difficult to feel any sympathy for her. I liked Ivy but I found myself wishing she was a little more assertive with her cousin. Once Heather goes missing though, Ivy is determined to discover what happened, even if it puts her life in jeopardy. Frankly, I wasn’t able to completely buy into this abrupt change in personality even keeping in mind her devotion to Heather. Ivy has always let superstition rule her actions, yet suddenly she’s ignoring all these “signs” that previously would have sent her fleeing in the other direction. There was also the question of whether she had visions or not. This was brought up with some dreams she had, but it was never fully explored. And finally, although Ivy was likable, there’s nothing really that stands out about her. I feel the same about her family and love interest. There’s nothing really that makes any of them memorable. What I did like about this novel was the setting. I thought Sarah Jude did a wonderful job creating and describing life in the Missouri Ozarks. She even manages to make it diverse by having Ivy’s mother be Mexican, and including a LGBT relationship. The mystery was also interesting and it kept me guessing throughout the book. The only issue I had with it was that there were way too many reveals in the end. There were no less than three murderous villains, which to me just wasn’t believable in this tiny community.
Overall, The May Queen Murders wasn’t a bad read. While I thought the characters were bland, I think many teens would overlook this flaw and focus on the mystery. Because of some extremely graphic passages which even made me a little queasy, and a couple of sexual scenes, I wouldn’t recommend this to young teens. Otherwise it’s a creepy tale that many YA horror fans will enjoy.