ARC Review: Heartwood Box by Ann Aguirre

Title: Heartwood Box 
Author: Ann Aguirre
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Science Fiction
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Tor Teen
Publication Date: July 9th 2019

A dark, romantic YA suspense novel with an SF edge and plenty of drama, layering the secrets we keep and how appearances can deceive, from the New York Times bestselling author. 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...

I really wasn't sure what I was expecting when I began to read Heartwood Box, but I think compared to the summary I was expecting something a lot different. I also am not the biggest contemporary fan. I love fantasy and science fiction and things with heavy world building. So it was a little different reading something that takes place in the real world. Heartwood Box also takes place in New York, so I was really intrigued with that aspect. The only thing that got me through reading Heartwood Box was the need to know what the mystery behind the town was. Other then that there wasn't much. I wasn't really invested in the story or the characters. 

The biggest thing about Heartwood Box that sticks out to me that on the first page Araceli mentions how she took the LIRR (Long Island Rail Road) to the small sleepy town in which her great aunt Ottilie lives. But later on in the book it is mentioned that this unnamed sleepy town is about a half hour away from Silver Lake, New York which is ALL the way upstate in New York. Which is nowhere near Long Island. 336 miles away to be exact and 6 hours away. So, you're probably like: "Amber what is the point of this?" Well, Araceli technically should be taking Amtrak to get to her aunt's town. The LIRR is strictly Long Island, it runs from Manhattan and all the way to Long Island's Eastern tip (Montauk.) Basically, there is no way that the LIRR got Araceli from JFK airport to her new home 6 hours upstate. This little bit just annoyed me because it is something that is easily looked up and over looked. But this is part of New York and how you get from point A to point B. I feel like in this aspect at least there wasn't research done. Now, you're like: "Amber, this really isn't a big deal." But it bothered me. 

I couldn't connect with Araceli. I found her to be whiny and a bit selfish. I don't know if this has to do with that I don't read contemporary often so I am not use to characters who actually act their age and are still in high school. But I found her immature and only out for herself. I also feel as if as a character I didn't really know her, I knew she moved around about once a year and her parents sent her to live with her aunt while the investigated civil unrest in Venezuela. But that is about it. 

The only part of the novel I really enjoyed was the mystery aspect. Why can't she go into the woods? What are the lights? Why are people dissapearing? Why are there people wearing bio-hazard suits in the woods of the town? I wanted the answers to these questions and that is why I kept reading on rather then straight up DNFing it. I hate writing negative book reviews, but I also know that I am not going to love every single book I read. I am not saying that I though Heartwood Box was horrible, but there are a lot of things that could have changed or worked differently. This book and I just didn't mesh well and that's all there is to it really. 

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