The Hallowed Ones

By Laura Bickle
Published on September 25, 2012
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Source: Netgalley
Katie is on the verge of her Rumspringa, the time in Amish life when teenagers can get a taste of the real world. But the real world comes to her in this dystopian tale with a philosophical bent. Rumors of massive unrest on the “Outside” abound. Something murderous is out there. Amish elders make a rule: No one goes outside, and no outsiders come in. But when Katie finds a gravely injured young man, she can’t leave him to die. She smuggles him into her family’s barn—at what cost to her community? The suspense of this vividly told, truly horrific thriller will keep the pages turning.
Here's my biggest complaint about this book: it ends.  I pretty much devoured this book over a few days of breaks and downtime at work, and I really really want more books in this series, right now. The next book is slated to be out in fall 2013, and I pretty much can't wait for it.  I want to know what happens to Katie, and her community, and her faith. I am impatient and I do not approve.

I had been excited about this book since I first started hearing buzz about it, and then managed to completely overlook the fact that I'd gotten an ARC of the book through Netgalley.  I've finally gotten around to reading it, though, and am super glad that I did.

Our spunky main character is Katie, who is looking forward to experiencing life on the Outside before making the decision to formally join her faith and her community.  She's a bit strongheaded and perhaps more contrary than many of the other Plain folk, as they call themselves.  There is, of course, a boy who she cares deeply about, who she's looking forward to spending more time with on the Outside, and then maybe devoting herself to whenever they rejoin their community. When the vampires come, though, everything changes.

The Hallowed Ones was a very quick read, and even scenes that lingered over the quiet way of life in the Amish community didn't drag the pacing down for me.  This probably won't be true for every reader, but I personally liked how the story was drawn out.  All of the quiet, peaceful times made the tense, scary moments work even better than anticipated.  And oh, boy, are there some scary moments that really hammer home the idea that no one is safe.  There is a much higher amount of gore and violence in this book than I would have expected.

There are some series where I've wanted to stop reading simply because I couldn't stand the main characters, but I never felt like that with this book.  I think, however, that some of the other characters could have been a little better developed.  I had a hard time getting emotionally invested in many of them, which is probably what keeps this from being a real five-star rated book for me.  That emotional connection seems to be key for the makings of a perfect book, for me.

Alex, the Outsider who Katie saves, is a pretty interesting guy, but for some reason felt ... unmemorable to me.  After reading, I can barely describe what he looked like, except for a few characteristics which are lingered on.  Perhaps I will feel more of an emotional connection to him after the next book.  He is brave and sweet to Katie, and I never once got the "ugh you're a gross creep" vibe from him like I do from many other male leads in YA fiction, so that was a plus.  I did like the fact that while there was a romance aspect to the storyline, that it wasn't the focus of the book, and no one was declaring eternal lurrrrve on the first meeting.

I feel like most "Amish fiction" is Christian fiction, and is put out by Christian publishers, so it was pretty awesome to see a horror book that just happened to be set in the Amish world.  It was still a story about faith and community... it just happened to have vampires.  Sweet.  I don't know that much about the Amish way of life, but I felt like the writing was very sensitive towards issues of faith and at no time did I feel like their religious beliefs were being made fun of.  There are even some interesting philosophical questions raised about faith that give both the characters and the readers a lot to think about.  Without giving anything away, I'll be interested to see how continuing issues of religion and community are handled in the next book, but have high hopes that they will be handled with the same amount of respect we saw in The Hallowed Ones.

I would recommend this book for older readers due to a lot of vampire-related violence and gore as well as some sexual content.

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