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.
The May Queen Murders was Sarah Jude’s 2016 debut YA Mystery/Thriller. I love this genre and as such had been looking forward to this book since he’s release. While it wasn’t a perfect book by any means I did think it was pretty good. Especially for a debut. The writing was neat and cohesive. I never felt myself being pulled out of the story and the character’s were interesting. While I did struggle with Ivy, the MC. personality on occasion for the most part she was fairly relateable. I’m going to give you three small problems I had with the book and then five reasons why, if you like this genre, you should pick it up anyway.
Three small issues
– In the beginning especially Ivy felt like such a weak character. She goes on and on about her cousin being her best friend but then follows it up with she doesn’t know how to “be” without her. It sounded like a co-dependent relationship. I know Ivy was an introvert and thus the tropey friendship is used of quiet mousy girl and her over the top beautiful and outgoing best friend who gets all the attention. But the way Ivy acted I got the impression that she had trouble functioning without her cousin. Which was weird.
– Ivy and her love interest were super cute and I loved many things about them. But one thing that bothered me was the scene where they had sex. He has just almost died and Ivy is at his house and realizes he will recover. Keep in mind that murders are happening like every chapter and the towns people are sending men out on guard and to hunt the murder. She goes to his room, locks the door and tells him she is ready. In my head I’m thinking, “Girl! He is exhausted! He has a head injury, and you want to get busy??!!” His dad is the sheriff and since her dad is the vet he is by default the neighborhood doctor. They will be coming back soon and you want a quickie…. as your first time… Um. It was just weird to me. Let’s stop in the midst of chaos to consummate our consuming love.
– The “who” part of the who-dunnit. There were too many people involved. Like one character is responsible for part of the murders. And two more are responsible for the others. Neither got enough “page-time” at the end to justify their killing spree which left me a little wanting. I would have rather had one killer who got a a few chapters to explain and do their creepy thing.
Five Reasons You Should Read This Anyway
1. For this being Jude’s first novel the world building was excellent. The book was very atmospheric and read like an urban Legend. Even when the plot was at it’s most boring parts I still felt the world Jude had built and it motivated me to keep reading.
2. Speaking of world building, this story was based off of Irish culture. It’s set in a small community made up of mostly Irish families who’ve known each other for generations. Their group’s culture is built on only using what can be raise, crafted, or repurposed. The Glen made for a very interesting setting and culture of people who relied on one another and their family stories that go back years.
3. The May Queens has some pretty diverse characters. Outside of the Irish roots, there was a Mexican character who married into the society, a lesbian relationship, and a character who was biracial, dealt with anxiety, and lived with a prominent stutter. I never felt like these diverse aspects were just thrown in but rather they were part of these characters and gave them dimension.
4. The parents were present in this story. And they were very involved in their children’s lives. I really liked Ivy’s father and mother. They were attentive to their daughter without being over bearing. They truly cared for her. Which was nice to see in a YA novel. While not every parent was perfect, they all seemed like real people. They had a few rough edges but were doing the best they could with what they got.
5. As far as mystery thrillers go, the mystery plot was kind of fright inducing. Yes I thought there were too many bad guys. But the scenes where those secretly evil characters showed their true colors I was genuinely fearful for the safety of Ivy and her friends. The murders were described in such a way that you really understood how demented the killer had to be. So when they (the killer(s)) got their chance for glory I was like, “Run, Girl RUN!”
I think if you like a good mystery thriller you should check this one out. I’m looking forward to anything Jude writes in the future. Her writing can only get better.
Do you like a good mystery thriller? How about urban legends? Come talk to me in the comments. And have a fantastic day!