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.
I nearly quit reading this book; if it weren’t for the prologue, I would have. I didn’t find the beginning of the book engaging at all. In fact, I started skimming at about 20% just to get to something more interesting. I’m glad I didn’t put it down completely, as it did get better, more compelling. Once the incident before the accident happened, I knew I needed to find out the rest of Molly’s story.
What the Valley Knows is the debut novel of author Heather Christie. It is a stand-alone, and while there could be other characters that could have their stories told, it would lose some of its poignancy in adding books to this world. What the Valley Knows is written in third-person limited, focusing on three characters: Molly, her mother Ann, and her boyfriend, Wade.
The first handful of chapters notwithstanding, I loved Molly and Wade’s character arcs. Wade, in particular, grew so much in the book because of the accident and he did it in a healthy way which made that storyline quite satisfying. I was also impressed with Molly’s strength, it may have taken her almost the entire novel to finally realize her own importance and power, but in the end, I was wholly impressed with how much she’d grown from the unsure girl we met in chapter one.
When I first began reading I wasn’t sure about the three perspectives, after the accident it was far clearer why we had the three perspectives. As a mother myself, having Ann’s perspective was a vitally important part of Molly’s story. We needed to be able to see what was going on with her from the outside to truly understand her.
My biggest wish for this book would be in the area of character development, especially in the beginning of the book. I didn’t find them particularly sympathetic or compelling and didn’t care much what happened to them. After the series of unfortunate events, I did have reasons to care about their futures, and their growth arcs were important; I just wish it hadn’t taken that kind of trauma for me to want to know more about them. I also wish we would have seen more of Molly’s healing post memory recovery, I’m glad she took the steps she had taken, but it would have been nice to see some real healing begin.
Heather Christie did a phenomenal job on her first novel. There was that little struggle to hit the ground running, but once her story found its footing, it was well paced and captivating. With some time and devotion to her craft, I can easily see Heather Christie rising through the ranks of YA authors, particularly those who focus on social issues. I’d love to see her continue writing books in the vein of What the Valley Knows.