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In this tiny, terrifying town, the lost are never found. When Araceli Flores Harper is sent to live with her great-aunt Ottilie in her ramshackle Victorian home, the plan is simple. She'll buckle down and get ready for college. Life won't be exciting, but she'll cope, right?
Wrong. From the start, things are very, very wrong. Her great-aunt still leaves food for the husband who went missing twenty years ago, and local businesses are plastered with MISSING posters. There are unexplained lights in the woods and a mysterious lab just beyond the city limits that the locals don't talk about. Ever. When she starts receiving mysterious letters that seem to be coming from the past, she suspects someone of pranking her or trying to drive her out of her mind. To solve these riddles and bring the lost home again, Araceli must delve into a truly diabolical conspiracy, but some secrets fight to stay buried...
*ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
Heartwood Box by Ann Aguirre is a mystery, wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in a puzzle. It’s this odd mix of suspense, paranormal, sci-fi and mystery that was really fun to read. Araceli Harper is sent to live with her great aunt Ottille in a ramshackle old Victorian home for her senior year of High School. But this little town in Long Island, NY is riddled with secrets from the moment Araceli arrives. Beginning in 1999, people have gone missing and no one knows why, one of those her own uncle. As missing person flyers litter posts in every corner of town, the house that Araceli is now residing has its own intrigue. Odd creaking noises, and a box with letters that will forever change Aracelli.
You get a little “Stranger Things” vibe throughout which is always a plus in my book but I was hoping it would be a little scarier. Aracelli and her friends have a very Scooby Doo clique and begin investigating the missing people and when one of their own goes missing, time is not on their side to figure out what is happening and how to stop it because if she’s not careful, she might wind up missing too.
I liked the book and the mystery behind the small town but I had a big issue with the place. There was a glaringly obvious mistake to me as a New Yorker. The town the author describes in the book is in Long Island. But the details she gives about the distance Aracelli is away from things like NYC make it sound like she’s upstate. Upstate and Long Island are two different places and you can’t even get to upstate NY on LIRR. Even the acknowledgements say the place she is referencing is upstate but it isn’t. Those details, to someone else who doesn’t know, might fly, but for me, it actually bothered me. It’s something that some basic research would have cleared up. I sort of had to shove it aside to be able to get into the book and ignore those moments they were talking about going places.
I liked the premise of the missing people and the box that sends letters and her connection to this other person. I couldn’t figure out how the two plot devices would work out or how they connected until the very end and it all comes full circle and worked surprisingly well. Aracelli is a cool character and takes everything in stride and goes with the flow. Doesn’t over question every little thing or deny everything. It’s just like “oh, the box wrote back and I’ve proven that this is not a prank so logically, yeah, some dude is writing to me from the past. Cool beans. Let’s go with it.” I appreciated it because sometimes you get a character and throughout the entire book doesn’t believe what’s happening around them and Aracelli is just into solving all these weird occurrences around her.
All in all, the book was good and me having loved Ann Aguirre Razorland series, I would definitely pick up anything this lady writes.