ARC Review: DIREWOOD by Catherine Yu (2022)

Genre: Young Adult Horror
Year Release: September 20th, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Bookstore | Libro.fm

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to a NetGalley AudioARC
Content warning: body & bug horror, death, on-page violence, racial microaggressions, vomiting

Aja’s perfect sister Fiona goes missing and strange things start happening: blood rain, a mysterious fog, blood-sucking grubs, all precursors to the arrival of a vampire. She strikes a bargain with Padraic and tries to free the kids in his thrall, including her ex-friend Mary.

Gross, goth, and steeped in 90’s vampire aesthetic, a fun read for folks constantly searching for new vampire content.

The horror here comes from the atmosphere and the constant presence of insects in places you really don’t expect them. The detail of the blood-sucking caterpillars and the incredibly aesthetically appropriate butterflies is so good. Most of the action takes place in an abandoned church in the woods, and it’s drenched in atmosphere. The ticking clock on Aja on finding her sister also works incredibly. The tension is tight from start to finish, wound up like a violin string.

What I found the most compelling about this horror is Aja’s relationship with her sister, Fiona. She always felt like she has been in her sister’s shadow, trying her hardest to not be seen anyway. Coupled with the context of her ex-friendship with Mary, the tension is so good. It’s great to see her grow from start to finish, but, since this is a horror novel, it comes at a great cost, the likes of which I will not spoil.

I also appreciated how monstrous but alluring the vampires were. It’s easy to understand how Aja fell into Padraic’s thrall. Seeing Padraic reconnect with his humanity plays well with Aja coming into her own and scheming like a vampire hunter. The fact that she seems aware of vampires as a lore concept felt super refreshing as far as the worldbuilding goes, so it’s fun to see that cleverness play out, especially as things get dire. This book goes to some bonkers imagery and deeply aesthetic emotional beats.

If you’re not bothered by caterpillars and butterflies in places they shouldn’t be, definitely give this fun time a go.

One thought on “ARC Review: DIREWOOD by Catherine Yu (2022)

  1. Pingback: September 2022 Reading Recap | Jo Writes Fantasy

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