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The Steep & Thorny Way

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  1,450 ratings  ·  379 reviews
Scene: Oregon, 1923.

Dramatis personae:

Hanalee Denney, daughter of a white woman and an African American man

Hank Denney, her father—a ghost

Greta Koning, Hanalee’s mother

Clyde Koning, doctor who treated Hank Denney the night he died, now Hanalee’s stepfather

Joe Adder, teenage boy convicted of accidentally killing Hank Denney

Members of the Ku Klux Klan

Townspeople of Elston, O
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published March 8th 2016 by Amulet Books
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Sally It directly addresses prejudices against race and sexuality and talks about the social and legal "punishments" for both.
It's done without being too gr…more
It directly addresses prejudices against race and sexuality and talks about the social and legal "punishments" for both.
It's done without being too graphic so it's suitable for younger teens.(less)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 3.88  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,450 ratings  ·  379 reviews

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Emily May
“Poisonous rivulets of hate and fear spread beneath the town’s sidewalks and buildings and strangled the beauty that had once bloomed through Elston.”

Another great book from Ms Winters. Though this isn't quite my favourite Cat Winters' novel, I'm delighted to see that she's finally getting some much-deserved praise from critics. Using a lot of research, with a particular focus on social injustices, Winters has now delivered four fantastic historical/paranormal novels.

As with her other novels
Wendy Darling
I really liked Cat Winters' first book IN THE SHADOW OF THE BLACKBIRDS, but the two books of hers that I've read since have gone steadily down in ratings, and I'm at a loss to understand the disconnect between my reactions and all the praise heaped upon them.

Every single one of her books have their roots in and contain plot details that are right up my alley, and this one is no different: it's the story of a half-white, half-black girl trying to discover the truth of what killed her father in 1
Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘


This book won't certainly appeal to everyone. It's not free of flaws, and I wasn't completely satisfied. And yet... As I said in my review of In the Shadow of Blackbirds, any book that tackles important and horrifying issues in such sensitive way, compelling the reader to do some researches about them deserves attention.

In this original retelling of the much beloved Hamlet, Cat Winters takes us into the xenophobic 1920s Oregon, where we follow Hanalee, a teenager whose father
Nov 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Review also on

The Steep and Thorny Way is the story of bi-racial small town Oregon girl, Hanalee Denney during Prohibition. Prohibition, a time in US history when the government banned the production and the distribution of alcoholic beverages. It was also a time when some were prohibited to be who they truly were. Those were truly dark days when establishments found it necessary to indicate the skin color of their clientele.

Being the only girl of color in the small town of Elston, Oregon, H
Dec 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
“Hate is a powerful demon that worms its way into the hearts of fearful men.”

This is my favorite Cat Winters book I've read to date. I loved all of her dark, well-researched historical fiction books, but The Steep & Thorny Way felt a bit different. More mature, more emotionally effective, and with a deeper understanding of the characters.

I loved the main characters, Hanalee and Joe. They meant so much to me and I think this made me appreciate the plot even more.

Like always, the author took a
Elle (ellexamines)
Apr 25, 2017 marked it as tbz
me at 2 am, eyelids flashing open: black girl Hamlet set in 1923 is a thing that genuinely, actually exists
me at 3 am, eyelids flashing open again: I've known about it for a whole year and I still haven't read it
Sep 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
"What's wrong with people out there," I asked, "deciding who gets to have children and who has to be stopped from living the type of life that feels right to them? What's wrong with them?"

“Poisonous rivulets of hate and fear spread beneath the town’s sidewalks and buildings and strangled the beauty that had once bloomed through Elston.”

" I drew a deep breath and marched into the woods behind my house with a two-barreled pistol hidden beneath my blue cotton skirt. The pocket-size derringer rode
Before I get to my review of the book, I just want to talk a minute about the history of eugenics in the United States. I have never been taught this in school . I am absolutely outraged and disgusted that not only were eugenics very prominent in the United States, to the point that a lot of historians believe Nazi Germany's eugenics were inspired by it, but we (Americans) completely overlook it and pretend like it never happened when talking about American history. I have been in school for ab ...more
Maja (The Nocturnal Library)
Cat Winters’ books are always such things of beauty, and The Steep and Thorny Way is no exception. The quality of her prose and the depth of her research can only be compared to Ruta Sepetys, at least as far as historical YA goes.

Inspired heavily by Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Steep and Thorny Way is a strong enough book to stand entirely on its own and avoid any predictability. While she does use Hamlet’s themes in what could be considered a retelling (the death of protagonist’s father, potentia
Shannon (It Starts At Midnight)
You can find the full review and all the fancy and/or randomness that accompanies it at It Starts at Midnight
Cat Winters has done it again. She has managed to absolutely blow me away with her heartbreaking and gorgeous portrayal of, quite frankly, a really awful time to be a minority of any kind in the United States. (Well, historically, there hasn't really been a good time, but this is especially unsettling.) To write about this time period and the prejudices that accompany it is a very tricky
The year is 1923 and in a small town in Oregon, hate spreads like wildfire. Life is challenging for Hanalee Denney, the daughter of a black man and a white woman, but she has learned to persevere. When her father is killed by a drunk driver, she’s devastated by his absence from her life, especially after her mother quickly remarries. The boy responsible for his death, Joe Adder, is released from prison a mere seventeen months after being sentenced and once Hanalee finds out she takes her anger ...more
Heather (The Sassy Book Geek)
Originally Posted On The Sassy Book Geek

***Thank You To Netgalley & ABRAMS Kids Amulet Books For Giving Me This ARC In Exchange For An Honest Review***

This is my first Cat Winters book and color me VERY impressed. I can't believe it's taken me this long to read one of her books!

I don't think a review will do the book justice! I'm also going to go ahead and let you all know that I had a hard time writing this review, it was such a different and unique book I didn't quite know where my thoughts
Lauren Stoolfire
Cat Winters is one of my favorite historical fiction writers who adds a dash of fantasy to her stories. The Steep & Thorny Way is no exception. I particularly love that her stories feel so real. It's clear that she does a lot of research to bring her characters and their world to life. I always enjoy reading her historical notes and looking at the photos she incorporates into the story. I'd say that Hanalee is her best character so far. She's brave and won't give up until she learns the truth. P ...more
Jul 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
Hamlet has always been one of my favorite plays, so I was quite eager to see what Cat was going to do with it.

I loved Hanalee right from the start. She's smart and capable and really doesn't take shit from anyone. I loved that she was strong enough to stand up to do the right thing in such a hard situation. And I absolutely adored the scenes when she had her gun.

I really enjoyed the twist on Hamlet. It was a unique take and didn't unfold exactly like I was expecting. There were a few things that
Hannah (jellicoereads)
Oct 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Ladies and gentlemen, Cat Winters has done it yet again. I’m running out of praise for this author. Her combination of supernatural, history and feminism is unparalleled – and how great is it to find an author who just delivers each time?

The Steep and Thorny Way does have Hamlet-like elements to it, but diverges on one of the more pivotal plot twists and takes on a life of its own. It also strikes me as a darker book than her other work, but that didn’t lessen my enjoyment.

There’s a powerful mov
Christina (Confessions of a Book Addict)
Living in 1920s Oregon is especially hard for bi-racial Hanalee Denney. Her mother is white and her deceased father was African American. Her father, unfortunately, died when he was struck by a drunk driver. The drunk driver is a teenager and now he's out of jail. Everyone is telling Hanalee to stay away from him; after all, he did kill her father, but she is curious about what he has to say. He says that he isn't actually responsible for her father's death, but instead it's the doctor that look ...more
Well, this was just beyond amazing. I loved it so, so much!
Mar 19, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 3-star
This is the case of "it's not you, it's me."

I liked the story itself and the plot and even the characters, but I did not like the writing. I felt that it made the story and plot really choppy.

Nevertheless, I think that this was a fascinating story. Based on Hamlet, but set in Oregon in the early 19oo's when the KKK began establishing their base there. Hanalee is a mixed raced girl whose African-American father was killed by a drunk driver, and her white mother remarries another white man. But w
Jamie (Books and Ladders)
Actual Rating: 4.5*
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

I will have a full review closer to the release date, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I liked that it was built out of the basic premise for Hamlet and that there were references to the play but it was entirely it's own story and one that needed to be told. I think the best part is that it was "accessible" to people because, even if you haven't read Hamlet, you know the general story line so yo
Paige (Illegal in 3 Countries)
See more of my reviews on The YA Kitten! Though the publisher provided me with an eARC for review, my review is of the finished book. I had to buy a print copy because the photographs in the ebook file overwhelmed both my laptop and my Nook.
Diversity Rating: 4 – This is Our World
5 (Hanalee is the biracial daughter of a black man and a white woman; her identity is central to the story)
QUILTBAG: 5 (Joe’s identity as a gay man is also central to the story)
Disability: 0 (Hanalee’s dad
May 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
I liked the last two Cat Winters books, The Cure For Dreaming and The Uninvited. When I discovered that she had written a new YA novel with a bi-racial protagonist, I was intrigued and wanted to find out if she could pull it off.

I know that one of the reasons why African Americans object to POC characters as protagonists in novels written by Caucasian writers like Cat Winters is that it leads to books by African American writers being ignored. The more visible and successful Caucasian writers g
Maddie Driban
The Steep and Thorny Way was thrilling, chilling, and completely fulfilling. I was pulled into the story from the first chapters and couldn't put it down. I loved reading about a young woman's strength and bravery, especially set in a time period that this was obviously rare and controversial....and meaningful. Feeling excited by a storyline filled with prejudice and discrimination surprised me a little, but also makes sense when I think about the resilience that also fills the pages. As a reade ...more
Carina Olsen
Jul 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I have wanted to read this book for so long now. I knew I would love it. And I did. Which makes me so thrilled. I have read and loved three books by Cat Winters before this one, so happy that I loved this fourth book by her as well. And I simply cannot wait to read more books by this precious author. She is the best :)

I was a tiny bit nervous about reading this book, considering how much I loved all of Cat's other books, I worried a bit that I wouldn't love this one as much. As I always worry. B
Apr 12, 2017 rated it liked it
I have capital-O Opinions when it comes to Shakespeare adaptations, so maybe it isn't fair to dock this book points for not being Hamlet-y enough - but hey, I must to mine own self be true, right?
Elizabeth Mathis
A thrilling reimagining of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Steep and Thorny Way tells the story of a murder most foul and the mighty power of love and acceptance in a state gone terribly rotten.

1920s Oregon is not a welcoming place for Hanalee Denney, the daughter of a white woman and an African-American man. She has almost no rights by law, and the Ku Klux Klan breeds fear and hatred in even Hanalee’s oldest friendships. Plus, her father, Hank Denney, died a year ago, hit by a drunk-driving teenager.
Aug 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library, retellings
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

There is a troubling undercurrent rumbling beneath the surface of the town of Elston, Oregon, and it's particularly troubling for Hanalee Denney, a sixteen-year-old daughter of an African-American man and a white woman. Hanalee's dad Hank was murdered last Christmas by a drunk driver, Joe Adler, and a few months later, Joe is out of jail and back in town. To add to the grief his return is causing Hanalee, the Ku Klux
Feb 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
*Reread so that I could review it fresh in mind. Just as enjoyable the 2nd time!

Short and Sweet:

Cat Winters is one of my favorite authors. Which means my expectations are always high when I begin one of her stories. The Steep and Thorny Way does not disappoint in the least. In fact, there are several reasons it might even be favorite Winters’ book yet! As with all of Cat’s books, The Steep and Thorny way is both a solid piece of historical fiction and a hauntingly good ghost story.

To Elaborate…
This and other reviews are on my site, My Friends Are Fiction

My Thoughts:
If you’ve followed my blog for a while you’ll know that I adore Cat Winters’ writing style and each of her books really resonates and impacts me emotionally. This one was no different.

I wasn’t all that sure what to expect about this book going in because I honestly didn’t read the summary prior to requesting it. All I needed to know was that Winters wrote it. I was surprised and impressed with the social issues that were
Megan  (thebookishtwins)
I received this free from the publishers via NetGalley

Hanalee Denney is the daughter of an African American man and a white woman, which is why 1920s Oregon is an unwelcoming and dangerous place for her. The KKK have been gaining more power and more influence. Hatred and fear spread by the KKK are poisoning some of her oldest relationships. Hanalee’s father was killed a year ago by a drunk driver, but when he is released from jail and is back in town, he claims he didn’t kill her father. So now
Aug 13, 2016 rated it liked it
3.5 stars
I absolutely loved Cat Winters' debut In the Shadow of Blackbirds, so I was ecstatic when I heard that she was writing another book. While I didn't quite enjoy The Steep & Thorny Way quite as much as I did Winters' debut, it was still a wonderful story with an incredibly researched historical setting.

The Steep & Thorny Way follows Hanalee Denney, a biracal teenage girl living in 1920s Oregon. Hanalee must deal with racial prejudice brewing from the Ku Klux Kl
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The Young Adult H...: The Steep and Thorny Way - May's Group Read 4 13 May 23, 2016 01:50PM  

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Cat Winters is an award-winning, critically acclaimed author of fiction that blends history with the supernatural. Her young adult works include IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS, THE CURE FOR DREAMING, THE STEEP AND THORNY WAY, ODD & TRUE, and a new novel about Edgar Allan Poe's teen years, THE RAVEN'S TALE. She is also the author of two adult novels, THE UNINVITED and YESTERNIGHT. She has been named a ...more

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