Cat Winters (In the Shadow of Blackbirds) offers a suspenseful Hamlet retelling, made all the more haunting by the rich and troubling historical time period.
It’s 1923, and Hanalee Denney’s black father has been killed by a drunk driver, and her white mother has remarried a prominent doctor from their rural Oregon town. When her father’s killer, Joe, a 17-year-old who spent nearly two years in a rough prison, is released, Hanalee is consumed by thoughts of revenge. But then Joe insists that the doctor murdered her father. Conflicted and unsure of whom to trust, Hanalee confronts the one person who can tell her the truth—her father’s ghost, who corroborates Joe’s story.
Surrounded by a potentially murderous stepfather, bootleggers, unscrupulous lawmen and junior members of the Ku Klux Klan, Hanalee isn’t sure where to turn for help. Both Hanalee and Joe’s lives are in constant danger, not just because of what they know, but because of who they are.
Winters stands apart as a unique YA literature storyteller. She deftly uses the occult to hook readers into examining tough historical topics such as racism, eugenics and violence, while exploring themes of injustice and forgiveness. The Steep and Thorny Way will provoke thought about how far we’ve come as a society and how far we have yet to go.
Kimberly Giarratano is the author of Grunge Gods and Graveyards, a young adult paranormal mystery.