An uneven retelling of "Hansel and Gretel" swaps witches for werewolves.
Eighteen-year-old Gretchen and her older brother Ansel are on their own after their father dies. Still mourning his death and the disappearance of Gretchen’s twin sister, who went missing when they were little, the siblings end up in the town of Live Oak, where they meet Sophia, a lonely chocolate maker. She offers to take them in, and they both fall a little in love with her. Gretchen can’t understand why the townspeople hate Sophia so much—until she learns that local girls disappear every year after Sophia’s annual chocolate festival. Gretchen becomes determined to find out the truth and discovers the candy maker is hiding a secret that concerns a lost sister of her own and a covert pack of werewolves in the nearby woods. Gretchen must confront both the wolves and her troubled past to escape Sophia’s needy reach. Though the concept is clever, bumpy transitions, sluggish pacing and lackluster prose stifle the story’s potential. The introduction of the werewolves comes suddenly and without explanation, and no one in Live Oak seems to have any knowledge of them except Gretchen’s new boyfriend Samuel. Readers may also be unprepared for the bloody, brutal ending, which is an abrupt change from the rest of the novel's moody, introspective tone.
Not Pearce’s best. (Fantasy. 14 & up)