Author: Sarah Jude
Genre: Young Adult | Horror | Mystery
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 3, 2016
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 (goodreads).
The May Queen Murders is chock full of scary images but does not excel in characterization.
Plot: Ivy and her family live a fairly simple life in the Missouri Ozarks, but it's because of their Amish ways and dark history that make them the laughingstock amongst their neighbors. When mutated animal bodies start popping up, it opens some up a history that Ivy isn't prepared to explore.
So just a warning, the scenes in The May Queen Murders are pretty graphic. I did a lot of grimacing while skimming paragraphs dedicated to describing what a scalped horse looked like. So yeah, be warned. When Sarah Jude isn't writing paragraphs that make you want to hug your cat/dog, she is detailing an intricate mystery and superstition that will leave you guessing until the very end. Nope, you can't guess who done it by the tenth chapter in this book!
Characters: Ivy and Heather are opposites, but they're best friends because they grew up together. Ivy is the sweet simple girl with a slight speech impediment while Heather stays out late and buys drugs from the out-of-towners. There is definitely a power struggle that I would have loved to see more of. It's the characters the generally fell flat for me in this book. While Ivy is sweet and wholesome, nothing stood out to me. The same goes for her family, the others in her neighborhood, and even her love interest. I was bored with their interactions and the conversations often felt forced.
I do have one thing to complain about specifically. Ivy is half-Mexican - her mother met her father while he was a missionary in her small town in Mexico. He brought her to the U.S. where they got married and he taught her English. To show Ivy's mother heritage, Jude would sprinkle some Spanish here and there throughout the text, but the most complex word is "Mija." I expected Ivy's Mexican mother to have Spanish structure above Spanish 101. I'm nitpicking, but it didn't make her character believable that she would only say words like "Bonita," "Bueno," and "si" in her native tongue.
Worldbuilding: As a city girl, the Missouri Ozarks fascinated me to no end, and Jude did a great job describing and building her world for the reader. I understood how the community worked together and the limitations that they had. And surprisingly, there is some great representation in both sexuality and race.
Short N Sweet: If you're looking for a creepy read, look no further, the characters may not be everything you're expecting, though.