Thanks to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: December 7th, 2021
Synopsis: For fans of Riley Sager, The Hawthorne School is a twisty psychological suspense about the lengths one mother will go for her child, inspired by present-day obsession with cults and true crime.
Claudia Morgan is overwhelmed. She’s a single parent trying the best that she can, but her four-year-old son, Henry, is a handful–for her and for his preschool. When Claudia hears about a school with an atypical teaching style near her Chicagoland home, she has to visit. The Hawthorne School is beautiful and has everything she dreams of for Henry: time to play outside, music, and art. The head of the school, Zelma, will even let Claudia volunteer to cover the cost of tuition.
The school is good for Henry: his “behavioral problems” disappear, and he comes home subdued instead of rageful. But there’s something a bit off about the school, its cold halls, and its enigmatic headmistress. When Henry brings home stories of ceremonies in the woods and odd rules, Claudia’s instincts tell her that something isn’t quite right, and she begins to realize she’s caught in a web of manipulations and power.
The author’s work as a psychotherapist, with a focus on narcissistic manipulation and addictive power dynamics, guides this exploration of a young mother wanting to do the best for her child. (Goodreads)
The Hawthorne School didn’t quite live up to my expectations, but it was an extremely quick and creepy read, that I mostly enjoyed for the couple of hours it took me to read it. The time it took for Claudia to figure out that there was something sinister behind this “too good to be true” school, had me a little frustrated. I’m not a parent, but my danger radar would have been pinging madly away by the second visit. I kept trying to give her the benefit of the doubt because she was a single mother with a four-year-old son with behavioral issues, but my patience was stretched thin. The rest of the characters weren’t exactly one dimensional, but neither did I find them memorable. The mystery was a tad predictable, but I still wanted my suspicions confirmed and I was eager to get to the ending. The biggest strength of the novel was the beautifully detailed, atmospheric setting, and despite the flaws, the story still managed to be a page-turner. The Hawthorne School is another book I’m struggling with the rating. My first impulse was to give it 3 stars, but I’m rounding it up to 3.5, because as I said, it’s a very quick read and despite the issues I had, I was still entertained.