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Gallows Hill by Lois Duncan

Gallows Hill

by Lois Duncan

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"Gallows Hill" is a very well crafted suspense/supernatural thriller. Although I don't usually go for the paranormal books, this one was presented in a way that was, for the most part, believable. It is also supposed to be a young adult book, but I found it entertaining for the not-so-young adults as well.

The book starts with Sarah Zoltanne being forced to relocate from Ventura, California, to tiny Pine Crest, Missouri, for her final year of high school. She was forced to follow when her mother Rosemary, widowed for several years, met Ted Thompson at a teacher conference and fell irresistibly in love. Ted was still married, although separated, and had a teenage daughter, Kyra, who was only one year younger than Sarah. The move was particularly rough for Sarah as no child wants to move away from their friends for their last year of high school. Add to that the fact that Pine Crest was a small community where the children had known each other almost from birth, and Sarah and Kyra couldn't stand each other, and you get what was the makings of a pretty miserable senior year for Sarah.

The class president, and anointed golden boy of Pine Crest, Eric Garrett, asks Sarah to help with the senior class fundraiser. They were holding a carnival in the gymnasium and Eric wanted her to be 'Madame Zoltanne,' fortune teller extraordinaire. Sarah tried every excuse she could think of to get out of it especially the fact that she didn't know the first thing about telling fortunes. Eric had a plan though. Kyra had a wireless radio and would feed info on all the people walking in Sarah's tent. Sarah would then put everything together and come up with a fortune. Her mother even had a crystal paperweight (which had a life of its own) that Sarah could use as a crystal ball.

Pressured to try and 'fit in' by Ted and Rosemary, Sarah agrees. The night turned out to be a major success. People were astonished that a stranger knew so many details about them, many she had never even spoken with before. All was going very well until Charlie Gorman walked in. Overweight and uncoordinated, Charlie was the class whipping board and was constantly being teased. When Sarah looked in the crystal ball for Charlie, she saw him being pushed down a flight of stairs. She was so taken aback by this that she feigned a headache and, since the carnival was almost over, decided to call it a night. When Charlie showed up at school the next day with a cast on his arm, things started getting sticky for Sarah.

Eric, having a hidden agenda of his own, pressures Sarah into holding private readings for cash. Kyra has a major crush on Eric and agrees to help. As she holds more fortune readings, Sarah sees things in the crystal ball which ultimately come to fruition. Add to this her nightmares about the Salem Witch trials and her growing friendship with Charlie, who is a proponent of reincarnation, and things start to spiral out of control for Sarah.

I very much enjoyed reading this book and while the plot was not really surprising, it kept the pages turning. None of us know what's on the other side of the grave, so who can say what happens. ( )
  NPJacobsen | Jun 6, 2015 |
Enjoyable YA novel examining reincarnation and the Salem Witch Trials. ( )
  daniellnic | Sep 24, 2013 |
Very good story and very well told. My second Lois Duncan and I think I'm going to make a habit of her for a while. I very much enjoyed the style of her writing as well as the story.

It's not complex or challenging to read but there wasn't a second during which it failed to hold high interest for me. I'm very fond of stories that have their origins in the Salem witch trials and speculate on reality and blur the line between what may or may not be true. Or extend the Salem experience across time and portray an effect on the present, many generations after the fact, which is what Gallows Hill does. The history was accurately and unobtrusively interspersed through the story. I found the idea of en masse karmic fulfillment interesting. The effect of the forces that were driving the characters was an excellent justification for the otherwise perhaps maddening actions of a couple of the secondary characters. I had a good emotional connection with the main character and the dialogue and interactions were more believable than in many things that i've read. There was just so much that was good about this. I can't wait to share this. ( )
  Yona | May 2, 2013 |
Sarah Zoltanne was unhappy to leave her home in California, and she dislikes the man her mother wishes to marry. However, homesickness is not the only danger awaiting her in Gallows Hill, MIssouri, where the community church runs the town and deviants are silenced. After being chosen to play a fortune teller at the school Halloween fair, big man on campus Eric Garret convinces her to do it after school to earn money, splitting the proceeds between her, himself, and Sarah's soon to be stepsister Kyria, who provides the content through gossip. Their scheme becomes dangerous as members of the school begin taking on the roles of Salem townspeople during the witch trials. While Duncan's novel begins on an interesting note, it takes a dive about half-way through as it tries to show how Salem's witches were reincarnated. According to Duncan, Sarah's mother only fell in love with Kyria's father to satisfy karma, and as soon as karma is satisfied she abruptly returns to California. The ending is also sudden and full of loose ends. While I am a fantasy lover, this offering by Duncan does not make sense, even on its own terms.

Awards: The Tennessee School Librarians Association Volunteer State Book Award for 2000-2001; 1998 Quick Pick for ALA's reluctant reader award ( )
  saraherndon | Apr 30, 2010 |
Sarah and Rosemary, her mom, have just moved to Pine Crest from California where Sarah had the greatest life - friends, the beach, always something to do. With nothing to do, Sarah is convinced to become a gypsy for a school event from the most popular guy in school, Eric and her soon to be step-sister Kyra. What Sarah doesn't know is, Eric has other plans in mind than just a one night event.
  Luv4Duckies | Apr 29, 2010 |
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Prologue - The crystal paperweight should have been clear, but it was not. The man who had cast it was bewildered.
Chapter One - The first time Sarah Zoltanne saw Eric Garrett, he was standing out by the flagpole in front of the school building talking with a group of friends.
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Book description
The crystal paperweight should have been clear, but it was not.
Handsome, popular Eric Garrett decides that Sarah Zoltanne is just the right person to play a fortune-teller at the high-school fair. Sarah is surprised and pleased. After all, she and her mother have only just moved to the small town of Pine Crest. Sarah's role at the fair is all a game; the earphones hidden under her costume are the extent of her supernatural powers. But as Sarah peers into the crystal ball, disturbing images suddenly appear, revealing information she could not possibly know.

When Sarah's visions start coming true, the students believe she's a witch and threaten her. Then Sarah begins to have such vivid dreams about the Salem witch trials that it seems as if she actually lived in Salem more than three hundred years ago.

What is happening in Pine Crest? Sarah knows her life is in danger--can it possibly be true that those who threaten her are seeking revenge from another lifetime?

Lois Duncan is in top form in this harrowing supernatural thriller as she applies her uncanny ability to make her characters--as well as her readers--understand the dark side of human nature and the consequences of vengeance.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0440227259, Mass Market Paperback)

Role-playing takes on a terrifying cast when 17-year-old Sarah, who is posing as a fortune-teller for a school fair, begins to see actual visions that can predict the future. Frightened, the other students brand her a witch, setting off a chain of events that mirror the centuries-old Salem witch trials in more ways than one.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:16 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Role playing takes on a terrifying cast when 17-year-old Sarah, who is posing as a fortune-teller for a school fair, begins to see actual visions.

» see all 3 descriptions

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