Title: And the Trees Crept In
Author: Dawn Kurtagich
Synopsis: When Silla and Nori arrive at their aunt’s home, it’s immediately clear that the manor is cursed. The endless creaking of the house at night and the eerie stillness of the woods surrounding them would be enough of a sign, but there are secrets too—questions that Silla can’t ignore: Why does it seem that, ever since they arrived, the trees have been creeping closer? Who is the beautiful boy who’s appeared from the woods? And who is the tall man with no eyes who Nori plays with in the basement at night… a man no one else can see?
Huge thank you to the publisher for providing me with an ARC! This does not influence my review of this book. Spoilers for the book have been shared and you have been warned.
I picked this book up because I wanted a creepy, atmospheric Halloween read. I’d seen a lot of good things about this book, and I generally enjoyed the author’s previous novel, THE DEAD HOUSE. Turns out this book was basically the same premise as THE DEAD HOUSE. Two sisters, a haunted house, one of them thinking that they’re crazy.
AS THE TREES CREPT IN starts off with Silla and her little sister Nori showing up at their “crazy” Aunt Cath’s manor house in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the woods. This book is set in the UK, about four-some hours outside of London. Silla’s appearance is and isn’t shocking to Cath. We get the sense that Sill and Nori fled and abusive father. Nori is mute, she can’t make ANY sound, and she has a deformed arm.
At the beginning of Silla and Nori’s time with their Aunt things are good. They eat delicious food, tend the garden and play around. But Cath starts to slowly lose her mind, and when Nori almost goes into the surrounding woods, Cath snaps. Apparently Cath and her younger sisters know that something sinister is in the woods, waiting for them, watching them…
Sounds freaky right? Well… it wasn’t. There was NOTHING scary about this book. I did enjoy the creepiness: the house was rotting, sinking into the earth, the girls were growing mold on their bodies, the food was falling to pieces, the trees were DEF creeping in… but then the “villain” in the book was… get ready… named… The CREEPER MAN. What. The Fuck. That name is NOT scary at all. Like. Idk. Every time I would read that name I would just roll my eyes. I get it, the names of our terrors aren’t that frightening: Slender Man, The Boogey Man, etc. But for me, “creeper” isn’t really a scary thing, just a weird or kinda off thing. People that are described as creepers are usually gross or perverted, not really terrifying.
So Aunt Cath loses her mind after Nori almost goes into the woods and locks herself in the attick… FOR THREE YEARS. Like at this point of the book I was starting to really lose interest. It wasn’t scary, nothing was happening, the writing IS AWUFL, and then the Aunt leaves these two girls (ages 14 and 4) ALONE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE WOODS FOR THREE YEARS. Like how is that even POSSIBLE?! And she left them with a warning to NOT go into the woods because ~The Creeper Man~ will get them.
At this point Nori and Silla are starving and there’s only a little food left and the garden is dying and there’s no rain (despite it raining and storming almost EVERY OTHER PAGE) and the village across the way (through the woods) is abandoned (because apparently world war III is coming??? This was another super random thing that was tossed in here and there that had NOTHING to do with the story) and Silla went a few times (even though she was told not to go into the woods and later on REFUSES to leave because she can’t go into the woods… uh, okay…) and then this boy who used to live at the manor (when it was an orphanage) just shows up out of nowhere and Nori loves him and Silla hates him and then they have this brief love-hate relationship where Silla doesn’t want him around but does and then she FORCES him to leave and they run out of food and Silla’s teeth and hair start to fall out and then she GETS MAD at the boy (Gowan) for leaving. WHAT IS EVEN GOING ON AT THIS POINT.
Gowen FINALLY comes back and is so sorry that he left (even though Silla had forced him to) and Gowan declares his love for Silla even though they’ve never shared ANYTHING significant, and they spend a lot of time in the library while Nori is off playing games in the basement with The Creeper Man. When Silla finally realizes that Nori has been playing with the Creeper Man she freaks out and then Nori LEAVES with the Creeper man. At this point the trees have SUPER crept in and the house is not only surrounded but the trees are INSIDE the house. Crazy Cath is still in the attic and the trees basically eat her and then Silla and Gowen have to go find Nori, which means going into the woods which is THE WORST THING EVER (even though Silla has gone into them a few times and Gowen had to have come from somewhere). So Silla and Gowen are running around searching for Nori and in the middle of it all, in the middle of this haunted wood, THEY DECIDE TO HAVE SEX. I kid you not. They are so in love that they have to pause their hunt for Nori WHO COULD BE IN SUPER DANGER and have sex.
They finally find Nori and she’s dead and Silla loses her mind and then she FINALLY realizes that… THEY ARE ALL DEAD AND THE PAST 300 PAGES OF BOOK HAVE BEEN ABOUT SILLA BEING IN HER OWN PURGATORY. I was SO MAD when I got to that point. Apparently all of the suffering that they had been through had been “clues” that the book was throwing at me to lead me to knowing that they were all dead. Only nope, those clues only made sense if they were REVELED IN THAT CONTEXT. Other than that Silla being hungry all of the time (because she was starving to death next to her dead sister’s body) Cath’s creaking sounds in the attic (because she had hung herself, not because she was pacing), Gowan’s disappearance (because he went to find supplies for them before Silla died) and reappearance (because he had finally died as an old man and was able to find Silla again in ~the afterlife~) none of this was pointing to the fact that they were DEAD.
Oh and this book is weirdly dated. It takes place in 2013 apparently and they live in the woods for three years without any TV or internet, and yet Silla is throwing around phrases like “first world problems” and apparently watched a lot of Japanese and Korean horror movies… when she was a kid? At age 14 and younger? While living in this horrific abusive household with a father that was super controlling and wouldn’t let them do anything? Just some of the very “current” things that Silla would say really hit me as weird because… where did she learn that?! HOW?!
And my BIGGEST MOST RAGE-IEST issue with this book was when Silla couldn’t eat (because she was malnourished, had no food, was trying to save food for her sister, was taking care of her sister, was only 17 and living in an abandoned haunted house, had none to care for her ect) at one point thought that the reason she wasn’t able to eat was because she “was anorexic or had a stomach bug”. At the end after she found out that the reason she was always starving in her purgatory was due to starving to death she even commented again that she “thought she was anorexic”.
PEOPLE. FUCKING HELL. WHAT EVEN IS THIS. Anorexia isn’t just “I can’t eat”. It is a fucking EATING DISORDER WHERE YOU DON’T EAT BECAUSE YOU HAVE A FEAR OF GAINING WEIGHT AND WANT TO BE THIN. IT IS AN ACTUAL DISEASE THAT IS SERIOUS AND NOT SOMETHING THAT YOU JUST “GET”. IT IS NOT JUST “I CAN’T EAT AND I DON’T KNOW WHY”. OH MY GOD. This part of the book made me RAGEFUL and at the point that I had read it I was thinking about DNFing but then I just kept on rage reading because I knew that I had to write this rage review.
DO NOT BOTHER WITH THIS BOOK. The characters are one dimensional, it’s not scary at all. Nothing makes sense until you get to the stupid ‘big reveal” and then you’ll just be angry because ~it was all a dream~. Just no with this book.