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The Hollow Inside

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Sadie meets The Glass Castle in a smart, gripping, and twisty YA debut about a girl seeking to reveal the truth about her mother-and herself.

Seventeen-year-old Phoenix has spent much of her life drifting from town to town with her mom Nina, using their charms to swindle and steal to get by. Now they've made it to their ultimate destination, Mom's hometown of Jasper Hollow. The plan: bring down Ellis Bowman, the man who ruined Nina's life.

When Phoenix gets caught spying on Ellis, she spins a convincing story that inadvertently gives her full access to the Bowman family. As she digs deeper into their secrets (and begins to fall for daughter Melody), she finds herself entrenched in the tale of a death and a disappearance that doesn't entirely line up with what Mom has told her.

But there's even more to this story Phoenix doesn't know. Who, if anyone, is telling the whole truth about what happened? Debut author Brooke Lauren Davis explores the murkiness of right and wrong, of choices and consequences, of heroes and villains, in an eerily compelling and thought-provoking small-town saga.

375 pages, Hardcover

First published May 25, 2021

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About the author

Brooke Lauren Davis

2 books151 followers
Brooke Lauren Davis is the author of THE HOLLOW INSIDE (available now!) and AFTER DARK WITH ROXIE CLARK (Bloomsbury YA, October 4th, 2022). She grew up in rural southern Ohio, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing from Franklin College. Now she lives with her husband in the mountains of North Carolina, where she spends her time annoying her pets, haunting bookshops, and dreaming up more stories.

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5 stars
356 (40%)
4 stars
377 (42%)
3 stars
133 (14%)
2 stars
19 (2%)
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5 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 189 reviews
Profile Image for emma.
1,821 reviews45.3k followers
June 27, 2021
Why was this so good?

Why did I enjoy this book, which is about a girl attempting to find love in spite of not knowing her father / living in a van with her complicated mother / finding romance built on a foundation of deceit (and ditto for her found family), so much?

Every single character in this is flawed almost to the point of being unlovable and I had a blast and a half.

I do not know why. This just instantly was a good and fun and pleasant read for me.

I'm not going to psychoanalyze that.

Bottom line: I read an ARC, I read it basically on time, and I liked it! Three things that never happen.


i don't know what it says about me that this book, which is about how every human is deeply flawed and lives a life of suffering, was a nonstop funfest to read, but uh.

it was, so.

review to come / 4 stars

tbr review

secrets and spying and stealing oh my

thanks to the publisher for the ARC, which i am actually reading kinda sorta on time


reading all books with LGBTQ+ rep for pride this month!

book 1: the gravity of us
book 2: the great american whatever
book 3: wild beauty
book 4: the affair of the mysterious letter
book 5: how we fight for our lives
book 6: blue lily, lily blue
book 7: the times i knew i was gay
book 8: conventionally yours
book 9: the hollow inside
Profile Image for Chelsea Bruning.
252 reviews14 followers
February 4, 2021
This novel hooked me from the start and didn't let go. When I wasn't able to read it, I couldn't stop thinking about it. This isn't a reheated version of a story you've read before. The plot is fresh. The characters have depth. The setting has history. The pace is absolutely perfect. Brooke's writing is so visual, the experience of reading this novel is equal to watching a film. There were many parts where my jaw actually dropped. I was caught off guard multiple times by so many surprising twists! Just because this is shelved in the young adult section doesn't mean it's only for teens. I will be recommending this book to everyone.
199 reviews1 follower
March 29, 2021
I really enjoyed this one! This book captures a tricky mother/daughter relationship, to say the very least. Phoenix had a likability in her as a character, and I think my students would enjoy this read. Definitely a fantastic debut novel for Davis!
Profile Image for Erin Cataldi.
2,181 reviews77 followers
February 23, 2021
Absolutely stunning - I could not put this young adult debut down!! Phoenix and her mom live an unconventional life - living out of a van and stealing what they need to get by. That's all about to change however; Phoenix's mother, Nina, is taking them back to the place where it all started, Jasper Hollow. It was there that Nina's life was forever ruined so with the help of her seventeen year old daughter - they are going to right some wrongs and make sure everyone knows the truth. No more lies, no more secrets - she's waited long enough. Phoenix is tasked with befriending the man who ruined his mother's life as well as his family to gather intel for her mother - but what happens when she finds out that there is more to the story than her mother told her?! Is she into to deep with this fraudulent family? How much do they really know? She'll do anything for her mother - but is this going to far, even for her? Utterly compelling and unique - the characters were real, flawed, and kept me guessing to the very end. One I will definitely read again!
Profile Image for Emily.
1,265 reviews331 followers
June 16, 2021
I originally thought this was a horror novel for some reason, so my expectations were a little different. It's definitely a thriller / mystery instead, and it won me over quickly.

The story was creative and mysterious, and I love how everything unfolded. It was so interesting and suspenseful. I'm not going to say much because of spoilers, but I highly recommend adding this to your TBR if you're looking for a twisty thriller / mystery!

CW - parental neglect, statutory rape
Profile Image for Dana.
36 reviews5 followers
June 26, 2021
I purchased and read this book for two reasons. 1. It was the June selection for book club, and 2. I wanted to support a hometown author. After reading the synopsis and hearing friends’ opinions, I knew it would be a good book, but I wasn’t expecting it to be THIS good. As I was finishing it, I was torn between rushing to get to the end and putting the book down because I didn’t want it to be over. SO good!! I will be recommending this book every chance I get. I can’t wait to see what else lies ahead for Brooke Lauren Davis!
Profile Image for Katie.
312 reviews48 followers
June 25, 2021
Wow. I could not put this book down. I’ve never read an author that layered characters and story and secrets together so masterfully. It’s a page turner and also one of the most dynamic social commentaries I’ve ever read. This is her debut novel and that’s hard to comprehend.
October 28, 2021
Two small dogs on a fluffy blanket with a softcover book

📚 Hello Book Friends! THE HOLLOW INSIDE by Brooke Lauren Davis was not at all what I expected, it was so much better. I regret I did not pick up this book earlier. The story is beautifully heart wrenching. The plot is well written, and the characters are perfect. The twist at the end was out of this world. I could not put it down. It is soooooo good! If you are looking for a great YA contemporary mystery, this is it. Pick up a copy today.

#bookstadog #poodles #poodlestagram #poodlesofinstagram #furbabies #dogsofinstagram #bookstagram #dogsandbooks #bookishlife #bookishlove #bookstagrammer #books #booklover #bookish #bookaholic #reading #readersofinstagram #instaread #ilovebooks #bookishcanadians #canadianbookstagram #bookreviewer #bookcommunity #bibliophile #thehollowinside #brookelaurendavis #raincoastbooks #bloomsburypublishing #bookreview
Profile Image for Fran.
232 reviews169 followers
October 11, 2021
This is exactly how I like my girlies — angry, unhinged, gay. Another great addition to the “Good for her” extended universe.
Profile Image for kim.
453 reviews41 followers
November 26, 2021
Let’s take a moment to appreciate this cover. I love the blue against the black and white.

The synopsis gives similar books but I personally thought it’s more like The Boy Who Stole Houses and The Girls I’ve Been (both books I l’ve enjoyed). This story was twisted and gripping. I loved reading the construed and complicated relationships between all the characters, all with the small-town vibes. I’m a sucker for family drama and mysteries in small towns. Everyone was interesting with their different morals, personalities, and “who knows what about who?” It helped that this book was kind of a revenge plan to take down the town’s (basically) messiah. I almost knocked down a half-star because the potential love story with Melody didn’t need to be there, in my opinion, but that fast-paced ending won me over.

I’m usually hesitant on reading books with alternating timelines, but I would’ve loved to read more about Nina’s upbringing and Phoenix’s life before the events of the story. This book was freaking great.
Profile Image for charlotte,.
3,043 reviews805 followers
October 6, 2021

Rep: sapphic mc, lesbian li

CWs: statutory rape, deaths in car accidents, abandonment, lesbophobia, emotional abuse, stalking
Profile Image for Lindsi (Do You Dog-ear?).
703 reviews173 followers
November 16, 2021
I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

I read The Hollow Inside in two days! Do you know how long it's been since I've binged a book? AGES. The twists! The turns! It was a masterfully crafted debut and I'm already looking forward to more from this author. If you enjoy puzzles, definitely add this one to your TBR. I promise you'll be working to put the pieces together long after you've put together the outline.

Phoenix was a wonderfully complex character that I enjoyed reading about. She loves her Mom, but she's also conflicted about some of their choices and the lengths they go to in order to survive. Her mother doesn't seem to be as bothered by the brutality or uncertainty of their lives, but she's also dealing with a past that has haunted her for years. Phoenix frequently finds her mom silent and trapped within the confines of her mind, which leaves her feeling alone and unsure of herself. For so long, the only other person in her world was her mother, so it makes sense that she would be willing to do anything for her. Although, the head games Nina played, and how she used affection like a reward, made it an extremely toxic relationship. Phoenix was frequently surprised by Mrs. Bowman's kindness, and it made my heart hurt for the love she should have gotten from her mother.

I both hated and understood Nina's choices. At times they were extreme, but she was so lost in her grief and revenge that she didn't see anything or anyone else. Phoenix was the bright spot in her life, but even that was dulled by her need to make Ellis Bowman confess his sins and tell people the truth. It was sad how much she wanted her father - more than anyone else - to finally believe her, and how much she had to fight for a few words from one man's lips. I hated what had happened to her, but I also disagree with the methods she chose to exact her revenge. Innocent people were hurt, but she was too blinded by her fear and anger to care.

My one complaint would be the lack of reparations at the end. Nina and Phoenix fought and sacrificed so much for what they wanted, but then everything was over in a handful of minutes. The entire storyline was focused on getting Ellis to confess (with a few flashbacks thrown in), and then the story stops. There is an ending, and one I definitely think Phoenix deserved, but there were too many loose threads for my liking. I just felt like there was a lot left unsaid. I wanted to know more about specific people and what happened to them. I wanted to see the chaos left in their wake, and how certain events unfolded.

1) The box of trinkets
2) Jameson
3) Melody
4) Nina
5) Ellis
6) Neil
7) Jasper Hollow
8) Phoenix
9) All the illegal stuff they did throughout the book...

You might have to suspend some of your disbelief for this book to work, but if you can look past a few cracks, The Hollow Inside will captivate your mind and leave a few bruises on your heart. (★★★★☆)

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Profile Image for Jamie Canaves.
841 reviews252 followers
October 27, 2021
I absolutely stayed up way past my bedtime reading this. I was grabbed from the very opening page as Phoenix, a seventeen-year-old, is sent to rob a home by her mother–I mean there is already so much to unpack! I will stop here for a second to say I knew NOTHING about this book when I started and loved watching how layer by layer everything past and present unfolds. Brooke Lauren Davis clearly understands that part of a good mystery/thriller can be in the way information is doled out to the reader. So with that said, I can’t remember what is revealed early vs later, so if you like the full ride, just go grab the book rather than reading below.

After that tense opening scene, you follow along as this mother duo team (Phoenix and Nina), who are living in a van and steal everything they need, make their way to a small town that Nina grew up in. They have one very clear mission: ruin the life of the man who ruined Nina’s life. It’s not going to be so easy though, because Ellis Bowman is literally the town hero. The head of the perfect and beloved family. He’s also a blockbuster author who keeps putting out memoir/self-help books based on how perfect his life is.

But Nina has a plan, and Phoenix is to carry it out. Except things immediately go wrong, and Phoenix ends up being taken in by the Bowman family. Maybe this new plan will work better? But while Bowman’s son is like a golden retriever in human form and ready to believe all of Phoenix’s lies and help her, his sister Melody is the complete opposite. Melody is certain Phoenix is there for the family’s recent misfortune and to sell information to the papers.

What starts as a straight revenge plan suddenly gets more complicated for Phoenix as she recognizes herself in Melody and starts to have difficult decisions to make in carrying out her mom’s plan.

I loved the way this unfolded, how you get to know past and present Nina, and Melody and Phoenix’s relationship. I also loved the way the points of view are shown: instead of the present story being from the revenge seekers POV, we only see in past chapters what happened to lead up to Nina wanting revenge and the rest of the book is narrated by Phoenix who doesn’t know she’s caught between it all until it’s too late.

(TW domestic abuse, not graphic nor on page but a “fleeing” scene/ statutory rape/ brief mention of past suicide, detail/ side character with terminal cancer)

--from Book Riot's Unusual Suspects newsletter: https://link.bookriot.com/view/56a820...
Profile Image for Kate.
839 reviews31 followers
August 24, 2022
Local author. I haven’t read a good teen book in a while and this one had some good twists and turns to keep me guessing.
15 reviews
July 1, 2021

Set in a small fictional mountain town in Southern Ohio, those from the area (and many small towns in the US) will immediately relate to the citizens and small town dynamic. The story revolves around 16 year old Phoenix, her intense relationship with her mother, and sweet revenge.
I loved the writing style, the story was perfectly paced, both fast and slow. There was no detail spared, yet none wasted. I was stuck between not wanting the story to end and rushing to find out what happens. While young adult, there is a darkness that is very, very much “adult”. 5/5 stars for sure.
Profile Image for Alicia.
74 reviews5 followers
March 1, 2023
4.5 stars!
All I knew about 'The hollow inside' before reading was:

- It was sapphic
- It was a thriller
- It was about revenge

And I definitely was not dissapointed. The way the characters were written and how they had a reason for why they behaved a certain way is not something a lot of books have. The only small complaint I have was how it ended. The storyline was about getting Ellis to confess and after that the story basically ends. I enjoyed how it ended for Phoenix, she deserved it. I will give the author credits to one of the plottwists, there were a couple things that I saw coming but wow that main plottwist was something I didn't expect.

The book will keep you hooked that's for sure!
Profile Image for Ruei (Ruei's Reading Corner).
117 reviews13 followers
November 23, 2021
Full Review: https://rueisreadingcorner.blogspot.c...

Phoenix and her mom have spent many years living on the road, stealing things to get by. When they arrive at Jasper Hollow, Phoenix is tasked by her mom to help get revenge on Ellis Bowman, the person who ruined her mother's life many years before.

Everything about Ellis seems completely different from the way he was described to Phoenix. When an opportunity comes for her to enter the Bowman household, she takes it up to carry out their plan.

Things on the surface aren't what they seem. Secrets hidden from the past will soon be dug up. What is the truth?

I liked how there were many layers to the story, each slowly unfolding as the story went on. It alternated between the past and the present, which I thought was a nice touch. The characters grow and you see how they aren't at all perfect as they seem to be.

There were many plot twists I didn't see coming and I was very excited to continue reading. The book kept me engaged and it was over before I knew it.

Overall, The Hollow Inside was a great story about secrets being revealed after many years. It kept me engaged throughout and I really enjoyed reading it.

**Thank you so much to NetGalley and Bloomsbury Publishing for sending me an Advanced Reader's Copy in exchange for an honest review!**
Profile Image for Kari.
686 reviews37 followers
May 19, 2021
Not your typical YA by any means and I say that with the most positive emphasis. I loved it! This book begins with a sad start and increasingly becomes something of vengeance. And Phoenix is doing it all for her Mom, Nina…who isn’t even her real mom. Nina has had a tough upbringing and some poor choices and a broken heart has led to some unspeakable trauma held in her past that she has vowed to get back at some day. And that someday is now and that someone is Ellis Bowman. So she and Phoenix set forth to make him pay for the past. Phoenix just wants love and comfort from Nina but Nina uses it to reward Phoenix for a job well done and a manipulative tool. And so the next thing Phoenix knows, she’s no longer living in the van with her mom but living inside the enemy’s home with his family to get evidence of what was done to her mom. But not everything goes according to plan and Phoenix must ultimately make the decision when she learns the real truths.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Tara.
760 reviews
February 5, 2021
I may be a bit biased since I know the author, but to start off- this YA debut is full of secrets. Phoenix is seventeen and a drifter with her mother, Nina, until Nina decides to return to her hometown of Jasper Hollow and ruin a man named Ellis Bowman. You eventually learn why as the novel progresses, but Phoenix is caught as the scam begins, lies and then ends up in deeper than she ever thought.

There’s a lot happening in this book, but it’s written so that it’s balanced versus overwhelming. Plus, the town essentially becomes a character that reminds one of a coffee shop scene from Gilmore Girls- everybody wants to know each other’s business, but the secrets are intricate, deep and well hidden.
Profile Image for Rachel007.
408 reviews47 followers
November 9, 2021
WOW. I could not put this book down and I read it in ONE DAY. One sitting! I had CHILLS down my spine at the end.

The characters are all flawed people who do not so nice things. It's also a story of a small town and what we choose to believe or what others can make us believe. It's about family. It's about mothers and daughters.


There's queer rep as well as unlikeable character rep. Strong female characters and shaken men. Unrequited love and toxic families.

If you liked/loved Tess Sharpe's The Girls I've Been, Courtney Summers' Sadie, and Educated by Tara Westover, this book is for you.
Profile Image for Siofra.
724 reviews12 followers
May 25, 2021
This Book! This book!
I literally was spellbound by the intro: poison can be a person.

Trigger Warning: Murder, kidnapping, manipulation, abuser, grooming, toxic parent & homophobia.

Through this whole book, you get theories and clues that slowly help you piece together what is happening behind the scenes in this town and with this family and Phoenix. Your growing suspicion and doubt about the mom, Nina, is also pulled into question because something about her doesn't seem right, just like how we feel about Ellis. This was such a good psychical thriller and really showed a toxic parent relationship where you feel love and hate for them.
Also, that plot twist at the end that I wasn't expecting!

I am in love with this book, and I can't wait to get my copy on my shelf, instant five stars!
Profile Image for Cassie Thomas.
447 reviews16 followers
July 10, 2021
The Hollow Inside is all about Phoenix and her mother’s relationship and their gypsy life living on the streets and heading to seek out her mother’s revenge, but as the story goes on more truths are uncovered and Phoenix learns some serious hard truths.
This is a story that kept me hooked from the get go. Something about it was thriller, adventure, mystery all wrapped up into a ball. I stayed up way too late to finish.
This is going to be a book I book talk immediately to those who want a murder mystery without the gruesome murder side. It’s a YA book, but I could see even mature 6th graders handling it with ease.
CW: stealing, trauma, PTSD, anxiety, kidnapping, sexual relation, LGBTQ+, affair
Profile Image for Kristen.
1,762 reviews29 followers
March 7, 2022
This was a slow-burn mystery with an unreliable narrator and a cast of characters that are--on the whole--rather unlikable.

Phoenix and her mother live moment to moment: stealing what they need, conning who they can. They are working their way to her mother's hometown where a man from her mother's past will get what's coming to him.

But Phoenix doesn't have the whole story, and as her story unfolds we get glimpse of her mother's past to help put all the pieces together.

This was an interesting read, but the slow pacing left it feeling a little sluggish, and the ending showdown felt much more anticlimactic than I was hoping for.
Profile Image for Erikka.
1,785 reviews
April 9, 2021
What an astounding thriller for teens. Simply astounding. This plot keeps you guessing the whole time, the relatively small cast of characters gives ample room for decent character development, and the ending is neatly tidied without feeling forced. I love seeing books set in southern Ohio because that’s my home turf (my hometown and my local newspaper are both mentioned) and I feel like she lent a local’s hand to shaping not just the Hocking Hills terrain, but the ethos of the area as well. The setting is its own character, just like it is in my own life. Finally, I have to take a minute to discuss Phoenix and what a complicated protagonist she is. I love her development most of all and find her to be as compelling as a movie character. This would be a great film as long as it was set in south-central Ohio and gave money back to a depressed community.
Profile Image for Lisa Hedger.
115 reviews1 follower
October 18, 2022
This is an excellent debut novel, and while many have said it's slow, I enjoyed the rhythms of the story. The story carefully and slowly builds as you're learning more about all of the characters who are flawed and unreliable. But I discovered myself caring about a few characters more so than in other books where they're just really unlikeable.

Toward the end, some twists were far-fetched, but that's expected in this type of genre. And I still thought it was such a unique perspective that stood out in a crowded field.

I loved the ending and thought it was perfect. Well-Done!

Profile Image for Jasmine Hensley.
130 reviews3 followers
June 15, 2021
I could not put this book down. I had to get answers. I had so many feelings during this book from anger, to sadness, to just wanting to reach in and give Phoenix a hug and as much as I hated Nina at times, she needed a hug too.

A book is 5 star worthy when I get up to feed my baby in the middle of the night and continue reading after I put her back to bed because I just have to finish the next chapter!!
Profile Image for Samantha.
Author 22 books25 followers
August 21, 2021
I actually really enjoyed this! The mystery surrounding the chain of events was intriguing, and I loved how Phoenix fell for someone you wouldn't entirely expected given how the story begins. This story had it all! LGBTQ+ representation, a mystery, a kidnapping, crazy people with guns, old preachers in small towns, guys who you think did wrong, and some interesting surprises!

All in all I was very happy with this read. 10/10 would do it again!
Profile Image for Karen.
715 reviews89 followers
March 4, 2023

such a wild book. some stuff definitely didn't work. but big props for keeping me HOOKED the entire time. after reading this and After Dark with Roxie Clark i definitely want to pick up whatever brooke lauren davis writes next!
Profile Image for Brit.
Author 10 books150 followers
March 6, 2021
Im utterly and completely speechless. This book just hooks you in and tugs at tour heartstrings until your a complete mess with snot dripping down your face. This book is the first one this year to make me cry. I still shocked and didnt see that ending coming. Hands down one if my favorite books of the year. This book just ripped me open
Displaying 1 - 30 of 189 reviews

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