Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Thorn Abbey by Nancy Ohlin

book cover of Thorn Abbey by Nancy Ohlin

Title: Thorn Abbey
Author: Nancy Ohlin
Release date: May 7, 2013
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 304
Source: Edelweiss/Publisher
Reading level: YA

Nothing is as it seems in this darkly romantic tale of infatuation and possession, inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca.

Becca was the perfect girlfriend: smart, gorgeous, and loved by everyone at New England’s premier boarding school, Thorn Abbey. But Becca’s dead. And her boyfriend, Max, can’t get over his loss.

Then Tess transfers to Thorn Abbey. She’s shy, insecure, and ordinary—everything that Becca wasn’t. And despite her roommate’s warnings, she falls for brooding Max.

Now Max finally has a reason to move on. Except it won’t be easy. Because Becca may be gone, but she’s not quite ready to let him go…

Thorn Abbey, a retelling of Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, surprised me with it’s intensity and riveting storyline.  I don’t know what I really expected when starting this book but in this case it definitely helped me go in with an open mind and thoroughly enjoy the story.
The first thing that struck me about Thorn Abbey was the setting.  The story is set at a boarding school named Thorn Abbey and the place is beyond creepy.  Strange things go on in the dorms at night (and no, I’m not talking about normal nightly teen activities.)   The temperature drops drastically even though the heat is on and the windows are closed.  Crying sounds are heard throughout the night.  And Tess, the main character, can’t help but be drawn to the sea where Becca drowned.  Thorn Abbey is definitely one of the most haunting settings I’ve read about.
Tess, the main character, isn’t exactly the best but she’s not the worst either.  She is smart (kind of abnormally so), she’s funny, and she’s kind.  However, she thinks very little of herself and she belittles herself quite a bit.  It doesn’t help that her new friends are even worse.  Devon constantly tells Tess that she’s fat and needs to watch what she’s eating.  The other girls in the group don’t help matters. In fact, they don’t even consider themselves Tess’ friends for most of the book.   They just put up with her because she is Devon’s roommate.  They take the term mean girl to a whole new level.  As for Max, the mysterious love interest, he was a lot like Tess in that he wasn’t the best but he wasn’t the worst either.  He was very moody and sometimes rash but he could also be very sweet.  He was always good to Tess and they were pretty cute together.
The romance, however, was a bit cliche and it definitely involved some insta-love.  Tess becomes obsessed with Max from the moment she first sees him in class.  She actually has some almost stalkerish tendencies when it comes to pursuing him.  As for Max, it almost seemed out of nowhere that he fell for her.  It definitely involved the overused cliche of perfect guy falling for the nerdy girl.  However, like I said, they were pretty cute together and they really did seem like a good match once they got past the beginning stage of their relationship.
To be fair, I haven’t read Rebecca, but I do think Nancy Ohlin brings lots of new things to the story.  After finishing Thorn Abbey I read the Spark Notes for Rebecca and there are definitely some surprises thrown into this retelling.  Readers who have already read Rebecca should still be able to enjoy this one and still be surprised.
Also, I just have to mention the ending.  Wow.  I didn’t see it coming at all.  It’s definitely a kind of WTF? moment but it’s also kind of perfect.  It wasn’t at all what I expected but I truly did like it.
Overall, Thorn Abbey is a fabulous retelling.  Nancy Ohlin has definitely made the story of Rebecca her own and I will be checking out more of her work in the future.
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  1. Renae M.

    Hmm, very interesting! I have read Rebecca and I’m a HUGE fan of it, but from what you’ve described, this seems to deviate a bit from the original, which is probably a good thing. It’s a shame to hear about the instalove, though—the romance in the original novel is one of my all-time favorites. I’m glad I’ve heard about this book now, though, since it wasn’t on my radar previously.

  2. Christina Kit.

    There have been a number of retellings of the original story, and some have been good some bad, but this one does sound really creepy, like it focused on the Gothic characteristics and pushed them to the extreme!

    Glad the characters were somewhat likable!

    Lovely review!

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