Summary (via Goodreads):
Nothing is as it seems in this darkly romantic tale of infatuation and possession, inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca.
Becca was the perfect girlfriend: smart, gorgeous, and loved by everyone at New England’s premier boarding school, Thorn Abbey. But Becca’s dead. And her boyfriend, Max, can’t get over his loss.
Then Tess transfers to Thorn Abbey. She’s shy, insecure, and ordinary—everything that Becca wasn’t. And despite her roommate’s warnings, she falls for brooding Max.
Now Max finally has a reason to move on. Except it won’t be easy. Because Becca may be gone, but she’s not quite ready to let him go…
I have not read Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca though I have seen the classic film. I was drawn to this book with the promise of a retelling of this classic along with romance with that touch of mystery and creepiness. Thorn Abbey delivered on the creepy factor but overall was a disappointment to me.
I don’t know if it’s because I knew this was a retelling but I found it very predictable, all the twists I saw coming. If I had been able to feel the suspense and surprise then I might have enjoyed Thorn Abbey substantionaly more.
Beyond the predictability the characters were the biggest problem I had with this novel. I almost gave up very early on because our main character, Tess, was just so insecure. A few of her observations about herself:
Now I feel fat and humiliated. More humiliated than usual, that is.
My cheeks grow hot. I shouldn’t have opened my mouth. I should never open my mouth.
I bite my thumbnail, trying to quell my anxiety. At the rate I’m going, I’ll never make any friends here. Except Devon, who has to speak to me since we’re roommates.
All of this within the first 10% of the book. I wanted to shake Tess and tell her to love herself a little. It was very difficult for me to read this self loathing page after page. But I stuck with it because I understand that insecurity was an integral part of the character. Luckily, as the story progressed Tess does begin to appreciate herself and have some self worth, even if it’s too little too late.
As for the romance, it was lacking for me too. It was centered on obsession and possession more than a real connection,
And I’m a sucker for boys who notice me. It’s not something I experience often. Still, maybe if I can learn more about Becca, I can get closer to max. Find out what kind of girl he likes. And then maybe, just maybe, he’ll like me, too? I’m so pathetic.
He smiled at me. For real. And he thanked me for…well, I’m not sure what, but something. Was he flirting with me just now? Maybe he doesn’t hate me after all.
Tess goes on to obsess over Max’s ex-girlfriend, Becca, and it gets uncomfortable in places. But this does add to the creepy factor. You aren’t all the way convinced that Tess is all there mentally so the things she experiences seem once removed from sanity. I will say that Tess’ voice was very developed and she felt very real (in an unhealthy way). I never once wanted to be her or friends with her-granted I don’t think this was Ohlin’s goal with her character.
As for our love interest, Max, he seemed like an empty shell of a character. I never once felt anything for him. I didn’t know anything about him nor did I really care too. He felt very one dimensional.
Thorn Abbey was successful in its ability to be creepy. but with the predictability and lack of likeable characters this was a disappointment overall.
An advanced copy was provided by Simon Pulse in exchange for an honest review.