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Book Review: The Children on the Hill by Jennifer McMahon

The Children on the Hill by Jennifer McMahon

Publication Date: 26th April 2022

Genre: Mystery/ Thriller, Women’s Fiction (As mentioned on NetGalley)

3.75 Stars

One Liner: Hits and misses.

1978: Vi and Eric live with their granny, Dr. Helen Hildreth, a brilliant psychiatrist known for her work in the Hillside Inn, Vermont. People with health issues no one can cure are sent to the Inn to become better under Dr. Hildreth’s care.

But to Vi and Eric, she is a wonderful Gran, a tiny woman who homeschools them, loves them, and gives the kids a safe house. One day, Gran takes Iris home, a little pale girl of Vi’s age. The girl doesn’t speak and is scared of most things. But Vi is determined to help her.

Soon, the brother-sister duo becomes a trio as Iris joins them in searching the forests for monsters as a part of the Monster Club. However, the urge to know about Iris’ past sets things in motion, and secrets come tumbling out.

2019: Lizzy Shelley is a famous monster-hunter. She hosts the popular podcast, Monsters Among Us and tours from one place to another searching for new monsters. When yet another girl vanishes in Vermont, Lizzy decides it’s time to track down the monster and settle things once and for all. After all, who better than her to know that monsters are real.

My Observations:

  • The book is pretty fast-paced, but some reviewers found it slow, so it depends on your reading preferences.

  • The setting is atmospheric, and the intrigue holds during the first quarter. Those who read similar works can easily understand what’s being inferred.

  • A prominent theme reminded me of Sundial by Catriona Ward. The writing styles and executions are quite different, though.

  • The dual timeline blends well. The surprise revelation towards the climax was artfully planned and executed.

  • The blurb calls the book ‘genre-defying’, and I think I understand why. The past reads more like a YA novel since it’s from a young Vi’s POV. The present is a mix of women’s fiction and mystery, but with a protag who doesn’t act like someone in their 50s.

  • There’s quite a bit of repetition and teen-ish language in the past track. It may not work for those who want an adult thriller. And no, this isn’t horror. It’s got some atmosphere and talk of monsters (loads of them), but I won’t classify this as a horror book.

  • There is an anti-climax of sorts, which I cannot reveal without major spoilers. However, your opinion of the book will depend a lot on how you like this move. I loved the concept, but the execution fell flat. The intensity crashed so badly that my rating went from 4+ to 4-.

  • The ending is mixed and seems like an attempt to regain the lost tempo and intensity, but it’s a bit too late by then. It reminded me of a practicing singer trying to sustain the high notes and land the song properly but not getting it right.

  • What I like is that the book doesn’t focus on too many issues, though there is a mention of a few. It has a set track and pretty much works around the theme.

  • The characters are distinct but didn’t have enough scope to do their thing. I also wish Eric had a better role, especially in the present track. I’m still wondering if this would work better as a YA novel. I would have rated it 4+ if it was.

To sum up, The Children on the Hill is a decent attempt at mixing up genres and exploring monsters of different kinds. It’s an enjoyable and good read despite the misses.

I received an ARC from NetGalley, Gallery Books, and Gallery/Scout Press, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

The book is available for request on NetGalley.


About the Author: Srivalli Rekha is a blogger, writer, and amateur photographer. She got a degree in MBA and MA English Literature and chose to become a writer and a poet instead of a corporate professional.


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