And the Trees Crept In is a young adult psychological horror novel written by Irish author Dawn Kurtagich. This sucker has been on my shelf for almost two years. Since I’ve been in the mood for psychological horrors recently, I finally picked it up. I must say that it is one of the strangest books that I have ever read.
The book revolves around two young girls—Silla and Nori—who arrive at their aunt’s house under mysterious circumstances. Very quickly it becomes frighteningly apparent that the house is cursed. There are creaking hallways, dark shadows, strange noises, and then there are the trees. With the passing of each evening, Silla begins to notice that the woods surrounding the home are creeping closer, bit by bit, but she doesn’t know if it’s her mind playing tricks on her, or if it’s truly happening.
I don’t know what I was expecting when I sat down to read the book, but I can tell you honestly that I wasn’t expecting to become scared shitless. And the Trees Crept In did that to me! I only read it in the middle of the night, so I can get the full effect of its ambiance, and it got to the point where I had to wake up Sir Betrothed to make sure that there weren’t goddamn trees sprouting out of my fucking bathtub. Oh yeah, that happened.
It is a scary book, especially if you don’t know anything about it going into it like me. All I knew was that it revolved around trees that seemed like they were closing in. I didn’t know anything else and it is the best way to experience this novel.
The bulk of the ambiance is created by the awkward and unconventional format of the book. It’s told from different peoples’ perspectives and uses a multitude of narrative styles, such as journaling, different point-of-views, unusual formatting in terms of font sizes, styles, and placement, and little poems at the beginning of each chapter. Initially, all of this diversity can be quite off-putting, but if you can manage to continue, you start to see that it all works towards creating excellent atmosphere, setting, and mood. It began to envelop me in a sensationally creepy and uncomfortable shell, which played on all sorts of horrific fears of mine, the most prominent being strange noises outside my windows and shadows in the dark corners of the house.
Some other classical horror traits that I found in And the Trees Crept In consist of: claustrophobia, spooky trees, silhouettes of strangers, grotesque insects, and nauseating scents. Oh yeah, I said scents. The author describes the smells so marvellously that it is extremely difficult not to “smell” the things the characters do. This is the mark of fantastic writing, in my opinion, and is the epitome of psychological; something that engages all of your senses.
When you combine all of the world-building with the enormously dark and unusual twists and turns of the plot, it grips you with intrigue and creates a brilliant balance of mind-fuckery to the point where I couldn’t tell what the truth was and what wasn’t. A big part of the book focuses on the motif of insanity. The inherent psychological qualities of the narrative made me feel like I was completely losing my mind. It was so intense and sickeningly distressing. That anxiety and anticipation from the fear of the unknown is mind-blowingly strong.
The only real shortcoming I can think of with And the Trees Crept In would have to be the pacing. Towards the middle, things do slow down somewhat and there is an air of repetitiveness that made me feel like the story was being stretched to fill out pages. The story could have been at least fifty to seventy-five pages shorter and felt more complete and fleshed out than it did by being dragged.
All in all, if you enjoy psychological horror novels and don’t mind something that is fucked-up, complex, and really bizarre, then I recommend And the Trees Crept In. It was surprisingly a really good book. The finale also makes the slow bits totally worth it!