Book review: The Twisted Tree by Rachel Burge

ELS library assistant Sarah succumbs to the lure of Rachel Burge’s chilling YA novel, The Twisted Tree.

Whilst pondering over this review it struck me: what is a sure-fire way to know that somebody really enjoyed a book? Is it a) they feel a little sad once it’s come to an end, b) they frantically look to see what else the author has written in a desperate attempt to recreate the pleasure they got from reading the first book, c) they read all the acknowledgements and any other print they can find within the covers just to keep that feeling alive that they’re still reading the book, or d) all of the above?  Having read The Twisted Tree I cannot deny that I did all of these things. It was one of those journeys that I didn’t want to end, at least not without knowing that there was another trip on the horizon.  Fortunately, I did discover that Rachel Burge’s next literary adventure in the form of The Crooked Mask is due for release in January

It is true that I’ve always loved a ghost story. As a child it was the first genre to really capture my imagination and help me to understand why people wanted to sit with a book, rather than just watch the television.  I realised that in collaboration with an author, I could bring a story and its characters to life in full colour in my mind without the need for a device with a plug on it. It seems (more years than I care to remember later), that that passion is still alive.

The Twisted Tree is a tale centred around Martha, a teenager who is struggling to come to terms with how things have changed for her following an accident she had at her grandmother’s house.  The accident left her with scars, both physical and emotional, and a newfound ability to ‘read people’ and their feelings and emotions just by touching their clothes. In a bid to understand this gift, Martha heads back to see her grandmother in the hope she will shed more light on the situation, light that hasn’t been forthcoming from her own mother. Unfortunately, the journey of discovery is not quite as simple as she had hoped.

The author creates a perfect, chilly atmosphere in Norway for a mystery to unfold. Although the book is less than 250 pages long (and seemed much shorter as it was so enjoyable and had a good pace to the plot)  the author managed to neatly weave together several topics covering self-esteem, family relationships, a potential love interest and the unveiling of some interesting (a.k.a. spooky) family history with links to Nordic mythology. She edged this all with some lovely poetic language that elicited feelings of empathy towards the characters; occasionally a sense of sorrow, sometimes hope but at other times most definitely uneasy feelings of fear and suspense. In a bid to ensure you can feel all these things for yourself, I won’t unravel the plot any further. Rather, I encourage you to discover if Rachel Burge is an author’s name you will be looking out for in the future.

In my opinion, this story can’t be hidden in the darkness and must be pulled into the spotlight where it claims its rightful position as a worthy entrant into our Cheshire Schools’ Book Awards.

*

The Twisted Tree is one of ten books shortlisted for this year’s Cheshire Schools’ Book Award. From Monday 13th July to Friday 17th July, we’ll be hosting a celebration of the shortlist on Twitter @CheshireELS. Follow #CheshireSchoolsBookAward2020 to get involved!

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