Combining hauntingly simplistic artwork with a story wrapped in obsession and misery, Thornhill is an utterly unique YA novel, and a short, chilling autumn read.
Telling two stories of the Thornhill orphanage, side-by-side and decades apart, Pat Smy uses her sparse black and white illustrations to tell a modern-day ghost story, whilst penning an unsettling tale set some twenty years before that links to the illustrations through clever snatches of dialogue and spine-tingling tendrils and inky images. Both plots intertwine subtly at first, the plot smouldering quietly but drawing the reader in with each ratchet of tension. The written side of the story in particular is filled with blood-boiling moments of unfairness as our poor narrator is constantly attacked and the way she’s being bullied and tormented escalates to truly unpleasant levels.
Thornhill is a book that takes an afternoon to finish, but weeks to forget – and whilst for some the story might feel a little threadbare, I can’t wait to see the direction Smy’s classical, psychological horror skills take her in. There’s a lot for fans of a creeping ghost story to get invested in here, and some utterly gorgeous full page artwork, worthy of hanging on your wall. Some of the bullying is intense, though – I’d definitely flag that up for a possible trigger warning for some. But for someone looking for a quietly chilling read to wrap up with on a cold, dark night – Thornhill is well worth a look.