Hazel lives in an out-of-the-way town where faeries are real. The locals know enough lore to stay safe and be respectful, so for the most part the magical creatures leave them alone. Not so much with the tourists, who come because of the stories and to see the horned boy who has been sleeping, unchanged, in a glass coffin in the forest for generations and who sometimes end up dead. So everyone knows the fae are not to be messed with; sometimes it can't be avoided, though. Hazel and her family have had faerie contact in the past that has shaped them in ways they keep secret--sometimes secret even from themselves--ways that impact their interests, friendships, and romances. Then one morning the unbreakable glass case has been broken and the beautiful boy is gone, and suddenly everything changes.
I had a good time reading this.
The book didn't leave a huge impression--though images and emotions still linger--and I don't have a ton of deep thoughts to compose, so I'll focus on the that one main thought: The Darkest Part of the Forest was an enjoyable escape into a darkly thrilling world.
Browsing the professional reviews in an attempt to gather my thoughts, one sentence from School Library Journal stood out in particular: "While not Black's best, it is still better than most teen fantasy." Indeed.
I have not read all of Black's catalog--though a fair number--and not a ton of faerie fantasy--though a fair number--so I can't speak to every critique in those reviews, though I suspect most are a reflection of this statement from her acknowledgments: "It was a tricksy book to write, constantly transforming itself and trying to slip through my fingers." I wasn't bothered, however, and felt it came together nicely, a good mix of world-building, character development, intrigue, and action. Unlike some, I enjoyed the pacing, flashbacks, and gradual reveal of information. Mostly, I just know that I liked it.