Alice in Wonderland goes to a new high school…..
Heartshire High is a modern-day retelling of Alice in Wonderland, and debut novel by up-and-coming young author Charlotte Leonetti.
Heartshire High takes the reader through Celia’s move to a new town in her senior year, living with a less than caring dad, dealing with a new school and having to make new friends. While Celia is focused on just surviving her last school year, and counting down the days until graduation, Bunni befriends her and leads her into the woods, and into a world of drugs, parties, and death.
Once Celia discovers the mysterious death of Tim, she can’t help but dig into what happened. While the whole town tries to ignore what happened, Celia starts to ask questions which lead to her having even more questions. What really happened to Tim? Was it murder? Is somebody not telling the truth? Or is she prying into something she shouldn’t be?
I adore retellings. I love Alice in Wonderland. I really liked this book, but I would call it more a YA murder mystery, or even a YA crime novel. Sure there are some similarities to Alice in Wonderland, but they can be easily overlooked by someone not obsessed by the original story as the mystery of what really happened to the towns happy go lucky golden boy, Tim, unfolds.
Charlotte Leonetti does a fantastic job developing the story, and we are given just the right amount of insight into the supporting characters to care not just about Celia, the MC, but them as well. I felt like some of the story could have been further developed, in particular the interaction between Celia and her father. As a present but absent father you don’t expect much interaction, but developing the short spurts they did have would have helped when uncovering his betrayal as well.
Betrayal is a common theme throughout the story, not just in relation to Celia’s plot, but to the surrounding plots as well. Not to give too much away, but it is a betrayal that Celia uncovers to be the real cause of Tim’s death. I actually did not pick the right person when reading this story and so was surprised to uncover the truth right along side Celia.
The voice is clear and perfectly written for the YA audience – though being a teenager herself might have helped a little with that, Charlotte is only seventeen after all. This is a fantastic first novel by an up and coming author.
I loved the little notes made throughout the story by Celia in her journal, Weather, Song, mood, overheard. These were lovely insights into the MC’s head that helped me connect to her.
I rate Heartshire High 3.5 stars, taking away 1.5 stars for a few reasons. Firstly, there are some editing issues that should have been picked up by a professional editor. I know, I know, Charlotte is only seventeen, but if you are going to start your writing career, you want to do it as best you can. For example, changing the spelling of Celia’s dad’s girlfriend (Lorena and Lorina) should have been spotted by a proofreader.
Another small note which will not apply to future readers (they have been removed) is that there is a fair amount of song lyrics in this book. I did enjoy the inside these lyrics gave me into Celia’s state of mind, but research would tell you as an author, you cannot introduce lyrics lest they be in public domain. I quickly messaged the author’s mentor and this was rectified. It is a common mistake that people assume if you reference where something comes from then it is all okay. This is completely untrue. Make sure you can use what you want to before you hit publish.
The last little note is the cover. I am a cover snob. Really. I usually choose books based on the cover and expect them to tell me something about the story I am going to be reading. This book I would not have picked up in a shop or clicked on online. Nor would I have guessed any of the plot from it other than it is teen. This cover would suit a Heartbreak High kind of story, not the dark teen mystery that lays inside these pages.
I really did enjoy Heartshire High and would recommend it to those wanting to read a quick and surprising teen mystery. I look forward to seeing what Charlotte publishes next, and will likely be one of the first to hit buy now.