The May Queen Murders
Author: Sarah Jude
Release Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: HMH Books For Young Readers
Rating: 2.5 Birds
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.
THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS feels a little bit like M. Night Shyamalan’s THE VILLAGE. A homestead built by a few founding families that feels a little outdated compared to these modern times. It was built with the intent to keep the outside world away, their children safe and oh yea - and there is a monster in the woods. This monster is human though, and they all know who he is.
Unfortunately, while the premise of this book, as well as the cover, are (forgive my unintentional pun) killer, the book itself felt a little all over the place at times. I could see where the author was going, what she wanted to happen and the effort was put in to make that happen, but it feels like it got away from her from time to time.
We spend the beginning of the book with Ivy trying to figure out what is going on with her best friend Heather, who is pulling away and being very secretive lately. More often than not Ivy has a pity party for one when her efforts to suss out the situation leads to dead ends. Her pity parties focus only on what she feels could be the only possible reason for the secrets: the idea that Heather is in love with Rook, who of course, Ivy is in silently in love with. This happens dozens of times, any time Ivy saw or thought about Heather or Rook. The relentless over-pushing of this plot point was a main factor why the reader knows that Heather is in fact, not in love with Rook and this diversionary tactic to make you look left when you should look right by the author was poorly planned and frankly a little unbearable in how repetitive it was.
It also made me dislike Ivy’s character a bit, because she seemed more than just blinded by how she was raised, but whiny and simple.
Throughout the book, the beginning of each chapter has a one paragraph throw back to when Ivy and Heather’s parents were kids, the last time someone was murdered in the Glen. This is a feature I really enjoyed, a small splash of what was happening until they roll together to make one story. It was a creative and interesting addition that perfectly pulls off telling the backstory with the new story.
The flashback’s aside, there was just too much that felt “off” about this book, things that didn’t make sense, and it all accumulated with the ending which was kind of a mess. By the time we turn the last page, everyone in the Glen and even people outside of it have been accused and nearly jailed for the murders. It got to the point for me that if one more killer was revealed (either to be the actual killer, or an assumed one) I was going to lose my mind. It was distracting and overly complicated of an ending. In a small town of what felt like maybe a few dozen people we are expected to believe that not one, not two, not three, but multiple people committed unthinkable crimes (some murder, some other things…) in the Glen, all with out being caught or anyone catching wind of it.
All in all, I didn’t hate the book, but I didn’t love it either. It had it’s good points and its not so good, but I think that what I didn’t like might have been a personal preference to this kind of story, so I do suggest you give it a go if you enjoy mystery/tillers.
If you’ve already read it, I’d love to know what you thought about it – leave it in the comments and I will respond. Just remember to keep it spoiler free!