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The Children on the Hill

by Jennifer McMahon

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13714169,190 (4.06)16
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Drowning Kind comes a genre-defying new novel, inspired by Mary Shelley's masterpiece Frankenstein, that brilliantly explores the eerie mysteries of childhood and the evils perpetrated by the monsters among us. 1978: At her renowned treatment center in picturesque Vermont, the brilliant psychiatrist, Dr. Helen Hildreth, is acclaimed for her compassionate work with the mentally ill. But when she's home with her cherished grandchildren, Vi and Eric, she's just Gran--teaching them how to take care of their pets, preparing them home-cooked meals, providing them with care and attention and love. Then one day Gran brings home a child to stay with the family. Iris--silent, hollow-eyed, skittish, and feral--does not behave like a normal girl. Still, Violet is thrilled to have a new playmate. She and Eric invite Iris to join their Monster Club, where they catalogue all kinds of monsters and dream up ways to defeat them. Before long, Iris begins to come out of her shell. She and Vi and Eric do everything together: ride their bicycles, go to the drive-in, meet at their clubhouse in secret to hunt monsters. Because, as Vi explains, monsters are everywhere. 2019: Lizzy Shelley, the host of the popular podcast Monsters Among Us, is traveling to Vermont, where a young girl has been abducted, and a monster sighting has the town in an uproar. She's determined to hunt it down, because Lizzy knows better than anyone that monsters are real--and one of them is her very own sister. A haunting, vividly suspenseful page-turner from the "literary descendant of Shirley Jackson" (Chris Bohjalian, author of The Flight Attendant), The Children on the Hill takes us on a breathless journey to face the primal fears that lurk within us all.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
I read Jennifer McMahon's book The Invited and liked it, so when I read the synopsis for her new book, The Children on the Hill, I was well intrigued. I decided to give it a read and ended up liking it.

The plot of The Children on the Hill definitely piqued my interest. The book switches between two different years. I was drawn into each time frame. I felt like I was right beside each narrator as their story was being told. Most of the story takes place in Vermont, and I felt that through McMahon's writing, I was transported to each location in Vermont. I was interested in Vi's and Eric's monsters. I also was rooting for Vi to solve Lily's mystery of where she came from. I wanted to know what Gran's secret was for being super successful. I had to know more. This book left no cliff hangars, and I was glad that all my questions were answered. I would have liked to know more about certain characters such as where they came from, but I understand why the author didn't include it in the book. There are a couple of big plot twists in The Children on the Hill. I guessed one right before it was mentioned, but I really didn't see the other one coming. (Kudos to Jennifer McMahon on that!) As for the pacing, there were times that it slowed down to the point where I would get a little bored and take a break. However, the pacing would quickly pick back up. In the last quarter or so of the book, the pacing is done brilliantly, and I didn't want to put the book down at all!

I enjoyed the characters from The Children on the Hill. McMahon did a fabulous job with making each and every character feel realistic instead of make believe. Violet was such a vibrant child, and I enjoyed reading about her quest for knowledge no matter the cost. She was definitely quite the detective! Lily was an enigma that I couldn't figure out at first, but I really liked reading about her. It was interesting to watch her grow each day around Vi and Eric. Lizzy was also a likeable character, and I admired how determined she was to find her sister and solve the mysteries of the missing girls. Gran/Dr. Hildreth came across as a sweet old woman, but I always suspected she was up to something. I had my reservations about her, so I enjoyed reading to find out if my suspicions were correct. McMahon did an excellent job presenting Gran/Dr. Hildreth as a sweet grandmotherly type to Eric and Vi.

Trigger warnings for The Children on the Hill include some profanity, murder, violence, torture, kidnapping, and gaslighting.

All in all, The Children on the Hill is a book with a solid plot featuring a small cast of characters that are interesting to read about and how far they'll go for their cause. The plot will leave you guessing as you try to make it all make sense (though everything will be explained by the end of the book). I would absolutely recommend The Children on the Hill by Jennifer McMahon to those aged 17+ who love trying to figure out a thrilling mystery. This is one book you'll definitely want to pick up! ( )
  khal_khaleesi | Jul 28, 2022 |
I have loved everything that this author has ever written. Again, she has created an incredibly engaging story that changes and grows more involved as you read. This is not particularly a “ghost story...it’s more of a monster story. The character of Violet was outstanding. She is more adult-like than like a 13-year-old. When Dr. Hildreth, the grandmother, brings a young patient home, the children are both fascinated and repelled by Iris...especially the raised scars she hides under her hat. Iris has clearly suffered and survived some great trauma. Violet treats her like a sister but reports everything Iris tells her, which quickly backfires. The story skips ahead 40 years at about this point. We begin to learn the “secrets” and the story takes a big twist...but don’t think for one minute that you have it all figured out. Now enters Lizzy Shelley, a researcher and podcaster who has recently entered the public eye by consulting on the TV show "Monsters Among Us", follows a lead that brings her close to a monster she’s been seeking for some time...a monster that abducts young girls while hiding behind the local legends. A monster who is leading her back to Vermont and the Hillside Inn. The 4-star rating came about because even though I really liked the story and love this author, the book is a patchwork of many different voices and styles that is sometimes difficult to follow, especially when being told in the voice of the “Monster” herself. I also didn’t feel the question of “who is the real monster”, was never really answered. With Vi, Eric, Iris, and Helen’s story that took place in 1978...Lizzy’s search succeed in building real chills and a surprising twist. Those that need a great deal of order in their stories may find this a bit off-putting. ( )
  Carol420 | Jul 2, 2022 |
Set in two time lines, 1978 and 2019, the story starts at a renowned treatment center in Vermont and also ends there. Dr. Helen Hildreth is a brilliant psychiatrist working with the mentally ill. She lives on the grounds with her two grandchildren, Violet and Eric. Then one day she brings home a child to stay with the family, a child that does not behave like a normal girl. Fast forward to 2019 where Lizzy Shelley, the host of a popular podcast, Monsters Among Us is traveling to Vermont where a young girl has been abducted and a monster has been sighted. Lizzy is determined to hunt it down because she knows better than anyone that monsters are real - and one if them is her own sister. ( )
  Dianekeenoy | Jun 6, 2022 |
Oh wow. Just when you think you have it all figured out - you know nothing - the clues mean nothing. The story has left you twisting in the wind. The perpetrator is hunting the victim - is that right or reverse? What a masterful story of gothic horror except it is steeped in truth, history and what has gone before. Oh, the words - the images they convey - the staccato punches of phrases and what they might mean but maybe not. There is a sense of normalcy - almost. But something is slightly off - just enough to make you want to look behind the curtain, dig a little deeper. Be careful because there are outrageous thoughts and actions and scary stuff lurking just outside the carved wooden sign that spelled out “HOPE”.

Warped genius, freakish experiments, closed and locked doors, terror within Vermont’s Hillside Inn, considered one of the best psychiatric facilities- and in that one word is the beginning of all that is to come. Eugenics - it should make your blood pressure spike and reveal that horrors abound.

Remember, “monsters are unpredictable. This is one of the things that make them truly dangerous and must be remembered whenever you face one.” Beware you are about to face the worst of them.

Thank you NetGalley and Scout Press for a copy of this astounding book. ( )
  kimkimkim | May 22, 2022 |
Set in two time periods, this novel covers the 70's childhood of Vi, who lives with her brother and grandmother on the grounds of a well-regarded psychiatric hospital, which Gran helps to direct. Fast forward to 2019 and a woman named Lizzie who is famous for her book and podcasts about monsters. Lizzie travels to Vermont to investigate the disappearance of a young woman, who rumors indicate was abducted by a monster. There are many unknowns to be uncovered regarding all of the characters, and some of the secrets are grounded in true Vermont history. The creepyness factor had just the right intensity to propel the plot, and the characters were complex enough to be both likeable and believable. ( )
  sleahey | May 19, 2022 |
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I, the miserable and abandoned, am an abortion, to be spurned at, and kicked, and trampled on. Even now my blood boils at the recollection of this injustice.
Mary Shelley Frankenstein
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For all the monsters of my childhood, real and imagined
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Her smell sends me tumbling back through time to before.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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From the New York Times bestselling author of The Drowning Kind comes a genre-defying new novel, inspired by Mary Shelley's masterpiece Frankenstein, that brilliantly explores the eerie mysteries of childhood and the evils perpetrated by the monsters among us. 1978: At her renowned treatment center in picturesque Vermont, the brilliant psychiatrist, Dr. Helen Hildreth, is acclaimed for her compassionate work with the mentally ill. But when she's home with her cherished grandchildren, Vi and Eric, she's just Gran--teaching them how to take care of their pets, preparing them home-cooked meals, providing them with care and attention and love. Then one day Gran brings home a child to stay with the family. Iris--silent, hollow-eyed, skittish, and feral--does not behave like a normal girl. Still, Violet is thrilled to have a new playmate. She and Eric invite Iris to join their Monster Club, where they catalogue all kinds of monsters and dream up ways to defeat them. Before long, Iris begins to come out of her shell. She and Vi and Eric do everything together: ride their bicycles, go to the drive-in, meet at their clubhouse in secret to hunt monsters. Because, as Vi explains, monsters are everywhere. 2019: Lizzy Shelley, the host of the popular podcast Monsters Among Us, is traveling to Vermont, where a young girl has been abducted, and a monster sighting has the town in an uproar. She's determined to hunt it down, because Lizzy knows better than anyone that monsters are real--and one of them is her very own sister. A haunting, vividly suspenseful page-turner from the "literary descendant of Shirley Jackson" (Chris Bohjalian, author of The Flight Attendant), The Children on the Hill takes us on a breathless journey to face the primal fears that lurk within us all.

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