What The Valley Knows
Publication date: January 25th 2018
Genres: Romance, Young Adult
Millington Valley is a quintessential small Pennsylvania town: families go back generations. Football rules. Kids drink while adults look the other way. High school is a whirlwind of aspiration and rivalry, friendship and jealousy.
When smart and pretty Molly Hanover moves to town and attracts the attention of the football team’s hero, Wade Thornton—a nice guy with a bad drinking habit—longtime friendships are threatened and a popular cheerleader tries to turn the school against Molly.
The young couple’s future is shattered when Wade, drunk, wrecks his truck and Molly is thrown through the windshield. She wakes from a coma to find her beauty marred and her memory full of holes. As she struggles to heal, she becomes sure that something terrible happened before the accident. And there is somebody in the valley who doesn’t want her to remember.
Heather Christie’s debut novel, What The Valley Knows, is a moving small-town drama. The author tackles several tough subjects in a sensitive, respectful way that is appropriate for a young-adult reader.
Molly Hanover and her mother, Ann, are forced to move to Millington after her father dies. In addition to being smart and beautiful, Molly is a total introvert. Through much of the book, she struggles with interacting in large groups and having a conversation. Her love interest, Wade, is her polar opposite. He is an outgoing and loud football star. He struggles with alcoholism, and unfortunately, his friends enable his bad choices.
The prologue is gripping, and it might be the most suspenseful part of the book. It definitely drew me in. The rest of the book is a bit slowly paced, and a bit more transparent. The antagonist is obvious instead of foreboding—at least to an adult reader. The teen angst between Molly and Wade is a tad melodramatic at times. However, the relationship and character development is excellent. Wade’s undying love for Molly is touching, and it is exactly what a young adult reader wants in a story.
Some of the plot points are questionable: young Lily’s knowledge of make-up, the sheriff’s sharing of too much information with people involved in a crime, and Molly’s sudden ability to confront her rapist. However, Wade’s struggle with his addiction is incredibly well done, as is Molly’s recovery from her trauma.
Overall, What The Valley Knows is a solid YA novel that is safe for readers of all ages. The author provides young readers with not only a healthy dose of reality, in terms of the consequences of poor choices, but also a strong message about young adults turning to their parents for guidance and help.
Guest Reviewer Frannie’s Thoughts:
Overall “What The Valley Knows” was a fun read and I believe an excellent book for a young adolescent reader. At the start of the book, a young girl named Molly Hanover and her single mother moved to a rural town in Pennsylvania, Millington Valley. The characters are all rather perfect at the beginning, and personally I found the start a bit slow.
Once the book got moving, however, it was passionate and romantic. Molly and her high school quarterback superstar boyfriend Wade Thornton fall in love immediately, which although sweet, seemed a little rushed and unrealistic. This causes tensions between Molly and Wade’s ex-girlfriend, but the subplot with these “mean girls” could have been more fully explored. Also, we know that the mom figures everything out in advance, but exactly how she does this is still a mystery to me.
I wanted more back-story about the villain and his motivations. How did he become the way he is? People didn’t like him, that was obvious; but, I would have liked a little more info on why and what made him so powerful. Providing more details about the bad people as well as the good people would make the story less like a sitcom and more like real life. The good-guy policeman was also shallow. Our alcoholic high school student had more issues than we really understood, and yet his parents seemed like saints… where did his problems stem from? I wanted more from a lot of the characters.
I did enjoy that there were many important lessons within the book, and it addressed a number of serious issues. The reason I didn’t give it 5 stars is because of those previously mentioned unrealistic parts, and because some aspects of the story felt very cliché. It probably would have been better to address one or two main issues with more tenacity. The mean girls, the popular boyfriend, the drinking and drugs, the introduction and abuse of sex, the stratification of groups in high school, a car accident, the police reports… it is a lot to cover and it is very exciting, but many of the issues were raised without being addressed fully. If the book had focused in depth on one or two of these aspects, I felt that it would have been stronger and would appeal to more age groups. Because, really, these issues are ones that we deal with at all ages.
Overall the read was smooth, the writing fun and interesting. I feel that it is an excellent book for someone between the ages of 13-20, but maybe not a perfect fit for older, adult readers.
Heather Christie grew up in rural Pennsylvania and, at age seventeen, took off for New York City in hopes of becoming a movie star. Flash forward several decades, a couple degrees, a bunch of cats, two kids and one husband later, she’s back in Pennsylvania writing her heart out and chasing dreams again. She loves to read, run, drink tea, and make Sunday dinner.