When I first read Erin’s debut, House of Salt and Sorrows, I knew she would quickly rise to one of my favorite authors. To say I’ve been waiting with bated breath and following every line drop, aesthetic post, and update from Erin about Small Favors, would be an understatement. So when I saw it dropped on NetGalley for review, I knew it was an auto-request for me! Thankfully, I was approved with no sacrificial promises required.
Small Favors did not disappoint. Before you even crack the cover you’re met with a beautifully rich and vibrant cover almost literally dripping with honey. It completely sweeps you into the atmospheric world of the book – a promised land made up of a quaint and perfect little town. The world-building is extremely rich and you quickly grasp not only the layout of the town but the social hierarchy that exists. It’s very reminiscent of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village.
Simplistic in its daily life, the village lives in an almost Puritan-like environment without technology, mostly isolated from the rest of the world. To survive, supplies like fabric, medicine, and groceries are transported from cities across the Blackspire Mountain Range via supply train. Because the mountains are treacherous, the pass can only be traversed during certain times of the year and takes several weeks to return. We enter the story as one of the supply trains is on its last run for the year before winter sets in and the bigger cities become unreachable.
While the initial atmosphere is very “love thy neighbor”, that doesn’t last and the town is plagued by mischief soon after we meet our protagonist, Ellerie Downing. Ellerie and her family (which includes her parents, twin brother, and two younger sisters), manage a farm as well as beehives.
What was once a community built on trusting and relying on each other, takes a turn after Ellerie’s twin brother, Samuel, becomes involved with her best friend Rebecca, who falls pregnant. Once Rebecca’s pregnancy is revealed to Ellerie and her brother, Samuel denies involvement and casts suspicious accusations towards other potential lovers in the town.
This denial causes animosity between the Downing’s and Rebecca’s family and results in the Downing’s farm and crops being burned to the ground. In attempting to put out the fire, Ellerie’s mother is critically injured and must seek medical treatment outside of the town to have a chance of survival. While this would be arduous on its own, given how remote the town is, it’s compounded by strange reports of beasts from the surrounding forests and a ravaged supply train. Having no choice, Ellerie’s parents set off for a faraway town with the help of Whitaker, a new-in-town trapper.
Left on their own, it’s up to Ellerie to fend for her family through the winter which is made worse with the rapid decline of the town’s friendly nature. How will they, and all of Amity Falls for that matter, survive?
I truly loved this book and am still thinking about it months later after my read. Erin is a master when it comes to creepy, atmospheric vibes that suck you in. While a lot of YA novels rely heavily on character development to move the plot forward, I feel like Erin takes a different approach and focuses more on world-building to further the plot and the characters are secondary – in my opinion, this gamble pays off and makes for an interesting read!