The Hawthorne School
by Sylvie Perry

Thank you so much to Penguin Random House Canada and Crooked Lane Books for the complimentary review copy of Sylvie Perry‘s debut novel, THE HAWTHORNE SCHOOL, and to NetGalley for the free, digital ARC.

THE HAWTHORNE SCHOOL was published on December 7, 2021 and is now available to all readers.

I’ll preface this review by saying that THE HAWTHORNE SCHOOL did not at all end up being what I thought it was going to be, but I found that I still enjoyed it, nonetheless!

THE HAWTHORNE SCHOOL by Sylvie Perry follows Claudia Vera (there seems to be different last names between the early galley that uses Morgan and the finished printed book that uses Vera), a young twenty-something single mom who is trying to do the best for her son, Henry.  Henry seems to be having a difficult time in his preschool—his teachers claim that he doesn’t listen, causes trouble, and has several behavioural problems.  Claudia does not appreciate the attitude that Henry’s teachers take towards him, and instead, looks to find a school that will be a better fit for him.  This is where the Hawthorne School comes in.  While the Hawthorne School appears to offer everything that Claudia could ever want for her son and his education, she really couldn’t be any more wrong.

I won’t give any more details about the plot away because it’s best to go into this one knowing very little… it gives you the ability to guess what will happen and then see if you’re right.  I definitely managed to guess all of the major plot elements waaaaayy before they were revealed, but it didn’t take away from the story, and it was nice to see just how right I was.  I also found that even though I knew what was coming, that I really wanted to keep reading and found it difficult to put down.

This book has both cult and true crime elements, which is definitely what drew me to it.  However, what I did not enjoy was just how focused the book was on Claudia—I had assumed that more of the story would be told through Henry’s perspective.  While his character is the main focus of the book, everything is really only told through Claudia’s perspective.  I really wish we could have seen things through Henry’s eyes… because it is SUCH an interesting setting filled with super strange characters.  It would have been interesting to see what Henry thinks and feels.. not just Claudia.

Even so, I would definitely recommend this one—especially if you like books that feature cults (there aren’t enough out there!)


For fans of Riley Sager, The Hawthorne School is a twisty psychological suspense about the lengths one mother will go for her child, inspired by present-day obsession with cults and true crime.

Claudia Morgan is overwhelmed. She’s a single parent trying the best that she can, but her four-year-old son, Henry, is a handful–for her and for his preschool. When Claudia hears about a school with an atypical teaching style near her Chicagoland home, she has to visit. The Hawthorne School is beautiful and has everything she dreams of for Henry: time to play outside, music, and art. The head of the school, Zelma, will even let Claudia volunteer to cover the cost of tuition.

The school is good for Henry: his “behavioral problems” disappear, and he comes home subdued instead of rageful. But there’s something a bit off about the school, its cold halls, and its enigmatic headmistress. When Henry brings home stories of ceremonies in the woods and odd rules, Claudia’s instincts tell her that something isn’t quite right, and she begins to realize she’s caught in a web of manipulations and power.

The author’s work as a psychotherapist, with a focus on narcissistic manipulation and addictive power dynamics, guides this exploration of a young mother wanting to do the best for her child.


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