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Heartwood Box    by Ann Aguirre order for
Heartwood Box
by Ann Aguirre
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2019 (2019)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Araceli Flores Harper's parents are investigative journalists, and she has accompanied them all over the world. But not this time. Heading to a perilous assignment in Venezuela, they send their daughter to stay with her great-aunt Ottilie in her 'ramshackle Victorian monster' in a small town near New York City, so that she can study hard and prepare for college.

The town disturbs Araceli from the get go. It begins with all the missing flyers at the train station - why have so many locals of all ages disappeared? When Araceli meets her great aunt, she learns that her great uncle had simply vanished twenty years before as well, and is warned to avoid lights in the wood. What is going on? She begins to unravel the mystery when she finds a heartwood box in a room full of junk. There's a very old letter in its false bottom. It was sent just before America joined World War I.

Araceli dreams of the young man who sent the letter. When she inserts a reply (written for a school assignment) in the box, she begins to communicate - and fall in love with - that young soldier in the past. In the modern day she meets a neighbor, Logan Reed, whose abusive father is the town sheriff. Logan often escapes a tough home life to a tree house in the woods. The town seems haunted as well, and there are odd happenings near what used to be a WW I army training camp, and was converted to 'a top-secret government research facility.'

What it all comes down to is that the town is 'way more dangerous than Venezuela.' But Araceli is a smart and determined young woman, who enlists schoolmates to help figure out and counter what's going on. Heartwood Box is a gripping, thrilling read - highly recommended!

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