Book Title:
The Steep and Thorny Way
Book Author:
Cat Winters
Publishing Date:
March 8th, 2016
Amulet Books
Date Read:
February 28th, 2016


A thrilling reimagining of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Steep and Thorny Way tells the story of a murder most foul and the mighty power of love and acceptance in a state gone terribly rotten.

1920s Oregon is not a welcoming place for Hanalee Denney, the daughter of a white woman and an African-American man. She has almost no rights by law, and the Ku Klux Klan breeds fear and hatred in even Hanalee’s oldest friendships. Plus, her father, Hank Denney, died a year ago, hit by a drunk-driving teenager. Now her father’s killer is out of jail and back in town, and he claims that Hanalee’s father wasn’t killed by the accident at all but, instead, was poisoned by the doctor who looked after him—who happens to be Hanalee’s new stepfather.

The only way for Hanalee to get the answers she needs is to ask Hank himself, a “haint” wandering the roads at night.

My Review

“‘Hate is a powerful demon that worms its way into the hearts of fearful men.'”

Hanalee Denney does not have the easiest life.  She lives in Oregon in the 1920’s with her mother, a white woman, and her stepfather.  Her father, Hank Denney, was an African American man, and since his relationship with Hanalee’s mother was pretty much forbidden, Hanalee knows what hatred feels like.  She experiences it every day when she hears about how she has no rights in her state.  She feels it every time she goes to church and the ladies ask her mother to consider bleaching Hanalee’s skin.  She deals with it when she sees signs in windows stating that the owners have the right to refuse service to those they choose.  And then there’s the Ku Klux Klan – something Hanalee lives in fear of, despite the fact that she’s been reassured that they’re only doing good things for the community.  Hanalee feels a horrible amount of grief since the death of her father, especially since her mother quickly remarried the town’s physician, and seemed able to move on with her life.

When Joe, the boy accused of killing Hanalee’s father is released from prison, Hanalee plans on confronting him – until he tries to tell her that he wasn’t the one responsible.  Even though Hanalee isn’t convinced that Joe is telling the truth, she starts to think differently after she speaks to her father’s ghost one night (yes, she talks to her father’s ghost, and those scenes are truly heartfelt and emotional).  He tells her the truth, and she and Joe set out to try and figure it out together.  Meanwhile, Joe is dealing with his own demons…and reasons why people in town want him gone.

This is probably one of the most powerful and impressive books that I have ever read.  Hanalee Denney is definitely the most kick-ass female lead I’ve come across yet – she’s strong, she stands up for herself and those around her who deserve it, and while she is not fearless, she isn’t afraid to do what’s right.  She does what she has to do to make a difference in the world.  While she is independent, she knows when she needs help, and she seeks it out.

Hanalee Denney is a female lead that all girls and young women should admire.

The supporting characters were also great – including Joe.  Joe has his own problems to deal with, and he does so while helping Hanalee – and the two of them end up developing an amazing friendship through it all.  The way the two of them work together to try and solve Hanalee’s father’s death is quite memorable.

There isn’t any ridiculous romance going on in this book, and I love that about it – it sticks to the main plot and while there are a few things going on in the background, it isn’t hindered by an unnecessary romance that just makes the story seem less believable.  Instead, you are given a heartbreaking look at what life was like in the 1920’s in Oregon for people who had a different background, skin color, sexual orientation, religion, or even association with anyone different.

Included in the book are photographs, as well as an interesting timeline that goes over changes to Oregon’s laws after the story took place.  This truly is a well thought out and researched novel, and even more than that, it’s an important work of literature that reminds us of how far we have come since those awful days – and how far we still have to go.

If you’ve read other books by Cat Winters, definitely make sure that you don’t miss this one.  If you haven’t read anything else by this exceptional author – let this be the one that makes you a fan!

Note: I received an ARC copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

5 stars
This entry was posted in Historical, Mystery, Reviews, Young Adult and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters

  1. I really love Cat Winters so I’m super excited about this one. I didn’t realize that there were photographs in the books — that’s always a nice surprise. Also, yay for kick-butt heroines. Definitely gonna need to pick this one ASAP!
    Sajda @ Across the Words recently posted…Review: Burning GlassMy Profile

  2. Nikki says:

    I really need to try reading Cat Winters — I’ve heard so much about her work, but not yet tried anything. Maybe I should start with this one!
    Nikki recently posted…Review – Before I Go To SleepMy Profile

    • Kelly says:

      This is a really great one to start with! The Uninvited was really good, too, but that one wasn’t really young adult. This one is is definitely amazing!

  3. Pingback: Blog Tour: Odd & True by Cat Winters – Review and Giveaway | Here's to Happy Endings

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