Friday, July 2, 2021

The Hollow Inside by Brooke Lauren Davis

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Sadie meets The Glass Castle in a smart, gripping, and twisty YA debut about a girl seeking to reveal the truth about her mother-and herself.

Seventeen-year-old Phoenix has spent much of her life drifting from town to town with her mom Nina, using their charms to swindle and steal to get by. Now they've made it to their ultimate destination, Mom's hometown of Jasper Hollow. The plan: bring down Ellis Bowman, the man who ruined Nina's life.

When Phoenix gets caught spying on Ellis, she spins a convincing story that inadvertently gives her full access to the Bowman family. As she digs deeper into their secrets (and begins to fall for daughter Melody), she finds herself entrenched in the tale of a death and a disappearance that doesn't entirely line up with what Mom has told her.

But there's even more to this story Phoenix doesn't know. Who, if anyone, is telling the whole truth about what happened? Debut author Brooke Lauren Davis explores the murkiness of right and wrong, of choices and consequences, of heroes and villains, in an eerily compelling and thought-provoking small-town saga.


I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

I read The Hollow Inside in two days! Do you know how long it's been since I've binged a book? AGES. The twists! The turns! It was a masterfully crafted debut and I'm already looking forward to more from this author. If you enjoy puzzles, definitely add this one to your TBR. I promise you'll be working to put the pieces together long after you've put together the outline. 

Phoenix was a wonderfully complex character that I enjoyed reading about. She loves her Mom, but she's also conflicted about some of their choices and the lengths they go to in order to survive. Her mother doesn't seem to be as bothered by the brutality or uncertainty of their lives, but she's also dealing with a past that has haunted her for years. Phoenix frequently finds her mom silent and trapped within the confines of her mind, which leaves her feeling alone and unsure of herself. For so long, the only other person in her world was her mother, so it makes sense that she would be willing to do anything for her. Although, the head games Nina played, and how she used affection like a reward, made it an extremely toxic relationship. Phoenix was frequently surprised by Mrs. Bowman's kindness, and it made my heart hurt for the love she should have gotten from her mother.

I both hated and understood Nina's choices. At times they were extreme, but she was so lost in her grief and revenge that she didn't see anything or anyone else. Phoenix was the bright spot in her life, but even that was dulled by her need to make Ellis Bowman confess his sins and tell people the truth. It was sad how much she wanted her father - more than anyone else - to finally believe her, and how much she had to fight for a few words from one man's lips. I hated what had happened to her, but I also disagree with the methods she chose to exact her revenge. Innocent people were hurt, but she was too blinded by her fear and anger to care.

My one complaint would be the lack of reparations at the end. Nina and Phoenix fought and sacrificed so much for what they wanted, but then everything was over in a handful of minutes. The entire storyline was focused on getting Ellis to confess (with a few flashbacks thrown in), and then the story stops. There is an ending, and one I definitely think Phoenix deserved, but there were too many loose threads for my liking. I just felt like there was a lot left unsaid. I wanted to know more about specific people and what happened to them. I wanted to see the chaos left in their wake, and how certain events unfolded. 

1) The box of trinkets
2) Jameson
3) Melody
4) Nina
5) Ellis
6) Neil
7) Jasper Hollow
8) Phoenix
9) All the illegal stuff they did throughout the book...

You might have to suspend some of your disbelief for this book to work, but if you can look past a few cracks, The Hollow Inside will captivate your mind and leave a few bruises on your heart. (★★★★☆)

*this post has been backdated

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“Stuff and nonsense. Nonsense and stuff and much of a muchness and nonsense all over again. We are all mad here, don't you know?”
― Marissa Meyer, Heartless