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Wildthorn by Jane Eagland

June 22, 2010

Treachery locks her away. Love will set her free.

They strip her naked, of everything-undo her whalebone corset, hook by hook. Locked away in Wildthorn Hall—a madhouse—they take her identity. She is now called Lucy Childs. She has no one; she has nothing. But, she is still seventeen-still Louisa Cosgrove, isn’t she? Who has done this unthinkable deed? Louisa must free herself, in more ways than one, and muster up the courage to be her true self, all the while solving her own twisted mystery and falling into an unconventional love . . .

Originally published in the UK, this well-paced, provocative romance pushes on boundaries-both literal and figurative-and, do beware: it will bind you, too.

Wildthorn is by far the edgiest YA novel I’ve had the pleasure of reading. Where was this stuff when I was growing up? I would have killed for it!

Never mind that there were no real surprises. No twist I didn’t see coming from a mile way.

I enjoyed the hell out of Wildthorn and for several reasons.

It pushes boundaries. And those are the books that I absolutely love to review. Its what the blogs’ makeover was all about.

Louisa Cosgrove is being sent to play companion to a wealthy family when her carriage stops, not on the footsteps of the Woodville family, but at Wildthorn Hall, an institution for the mentally unstable.

Did I mention this is set during the Victorian Era in London? Seriously? There was no way I wasn’t going to at least like this book.

Louisa is not only forced to comply with admittance into the asylum, but is told that her name is not in fact Lousia, its Lucy. Lucy Childs. Forced to cope under these extreme conditions, Louisa reflects on her life up to that point, trying to find what might have led to it. As she pieces things together, we see her as a rebellious child. But not without purpose. Precocious and a little eccentric, Louisa wishes to follow in her father’s footsteps and to be the first woman hero, which, in her mind, means to be a doctor. Except, these things simply aren’t done in the time period Louisa grows up in. Not only is it not done in fact, but its outright shunned.

It’s made even harder when Louisa becomes aware of her budding attraction towards her cousin, Grace.

I’m going to pause here because…I have some explaining to do.  When I was doing research on previous reviews for the book, I was actually quite stunned that some people saw Louisa as unlikeable for her crush on such a close family member. Except, I know that, in days of old, and even still in some cultures today, it was common practice to marry off cousins. So I wasn’t bothered by it.

I also wasn’t bothered that Louisa is a lesbian.

Didn’t I tell you people I’m a complete  sap? I believe in the power of love, all love, like it’s my religion, and I think it’s high time that homosexuality became more acceptable in fiction.

But that’s not the only way this book pushes boundaries. Not just as fiction but as a YA novel. There are some dark sub plots in this book, and while I was willing to give away Louisa’s homosexuality (because it was hinted at, however vaguely, in the blurb and because I know that, even though *I* like that its in there, doesn’t mean all of you will, and I’d rather you enjoy the book for what it is than to get angry, feel betrayed, or be preached to.) I will not give away anything else. Just know that its not rainbows and sunshine and maybe you shouldn’t give this book to those on the younger side of Young Adults if you don’t want them exposed to such things.

But its about a girl who winds up in an asylum, so I’d have to ask, what would you expect?

I did have issues with the book in some places. First of all the reasoning behind why Louisa’s name was known to everyone at the asylum as “Lucy Childs” was never explained. Don’t get me wrong, I pieced two and two together but it seemed…….out of place. An unnecessary plot device.

Also…although I liked that Louisa’s love is “unconventional”, as the blurb so PC-ly puts it, I did feel at times that she became a stereotype. Of course, thinking about it rationally, these stereotypical elements actually fueled the rationale for her winding up in an asylum. So I could argue that the end justified the means in this instance. She needed to be stereotypical in a sense.

The love story is very sweet although…it does get a tad spicy toward the end. Which, wouldn’t have traumatized me as a teenager but eh, my parental figures were an open minded lot who raised me to be likewise. And sex was never an off-limits topic of discussion. But your mileage may vary and again, you may not wish to expose your young Young Adult to books with sex scenes, regardless of whether they occur between a man and a woman or any variation .

I will say that its not graphic. Just brief  mentions of mutual nudity.

If you’ve been intrigued by what I’ve had to say, you can pick up a copy of Wildthorn over on Amazon (in hardcover or for your kindle) or at B&N.Sorry if I’ve missed somewhere.

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