“Only the Lord knows what wickedness is kept in the hearts of men.”
…or maybe not. If M. Night Shyamalan and Blake Crouch teamed up to write a YA book, it would be this one. Small Favors is The Village meets Wayward Pines. The Downing family lives in a small hamlet cut off from the rest of the world by a forest filled with evil creatures. The town has a set of rules to protect them and limits their interactions with the world to seasonal supply runs. When one of these supply runs is massacred, the panic reaches a fevered pitch. The town decides to forgo the suppy run before winter and we see the impact of isolation, mysterious crop failures and lack of supplies from the outside world. The infighting and paranoia runs rampant but is this just normal human behavior or the influence of something more sinister.
The fantasy elements in this one are minimal but the building of the town and its characters as we head towards a climax reminded me a lot of The Crucible. Lots of pointing fingers and lifelong relationships torn apart as the living conditions get worse. The evil is balanced by a heavy religious hand of the town parson and we see how dangerous blind belief can be in the face of real danger.
Ellerie is a great main character because while she is an elder teenager she tries to approach everything with logic and is dedicated to taking care of her family. We see how principled she is and what it takes to tempt her away from her responsibilities. You really feel for her as she faces adversity and the impact of her choices.
Also if you’re a fan of bees and beekeeping, the Downing family are beekeepers and there are some lovely passages about their care. Probably my favorite parts! Small Favors is the perfect creepy YA with a dash of magic. It is a long book but the pace flows nicely. The big baddie is slightly predictable but I think that just meant there were good clues along the way!
Thanks to Random House Children’s for access to this novel. All opinions above are my own.