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White Crow

White Crow

4.0 4
by Marcus Sedgwick

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One of School Library Journal's Best Fiction Books of 2011

Some secrets are better left buried; some secrets are so frightening they might make angels weep and the devil crow.

Thought provoking as well as intensely scary, Marcus Sedgwick's White Crow unfolds in three voices. There's Rebecca, who has come to a small, seaside village to


One of School Library Journal's Best Fiction Books of 2011

Some secrets are better left buried; some secrets are so frightening they might make angels weep and the devil crow.

Thought provoking as well as intensely scary, Marcus Sedgwick's White Crow unfolds in three voices. There's Rebecca, who has come to a small, seaside village to spend the summer, and there's Ferelith, who offers to show Rebecca the secrets of the town...but at a price. Finally, there's a priest whose descent into darkness illuminates the girls' frightening story. White Crow is as beautifully written as it is horrifically gripping.

This title has Common Core connections.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Sedgwick (Revolver) addresses themes of death and what may (or may not) await in the afterlife in this chilling story, told in three voices and in two parallel stories set 200 years apart. In contemporary England, teenage Rebecca reluctantly moves to the coastal village of Winterfold, trading her life back in Greenwich for a lonely town where she knows no one and that every year loses more of itself to the inexorable pull of the sea. Soon, though, Rebecca is discovered by Ferelith, "the strangest-looking girl she's ever seen," who opens a dangerous new world to Rebecca, as Ferelith draws her into Winterfold's dark secrets and legends. The mystery that is Ferelith—a calculated and intelligent girl who left school at age 14, lives in a commune, and doesn't seem entirely human—will pull readers through the book, as will a twin mystery that unspools through the increasingly frenzied journal entries of a local priest in 1798, himself in the thrall of a mysterious stranger. Showing his customary skill with a gothic setting and morally troubled characters, Sedgwick keeps readers guessing to the very end. Ages 12–up. (July)
From the Publisher

“Readers in search of an atmospheric horror/thriller with a high body count and a multilayered mystery--not to mention a good scare--will find plenty to like here.” —Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

“* Showing his customary skill with a gothic setting and morally troubled characters, Sedgwick keeps readers guessing to the very end.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“This book is one thing very few YA novels are: genuinely scary.” —Booklist

Children's Literature - Sarah Maury Swan
Against her desire, Rebecca moves to Winterfold from London because her Detective Inspector dad has to lie low until the hullabaloo about his involvement in the death of a teenage girl simmers down. Winterfold is hot and boring and falling into the sea little by little. But Rebecca does meet a strange and fascinating girl named Ferelith and they become friends. Together they explore the town as Ferelith lures Rebecca into discussions of life and death and whether Heaven and Hell actually exist. Juxtaposed in this story are excerpts from the diary of an eighteenth century priest who is wondering about the same issues with a strange French doctor. The girls start daring each other to do increasingly bizarre and dangerous things and end up with Rebecca being locked in a special room where Ferelith tries to coerce her friend into admitting the reality of good and evil or God and the Devil or an afterlife. The two finally explore a hidden room/cave at the bottom of the French doctor's house and find bones of the seven people the doctor and priest had murdered. As the girls are in the room, the back of the house falls into the sea. Ferelith jumps into the sea and drowns, leaving a terrified Rebecca alone in the cave. A strange story with dark twists and turns which will keep the reader enthralled, even if it is a bit convoluted. Reviewer: Sarah Maury Swan
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Three lives intersect in this disquieting but skillfully written tale of the human desire to know what awaits us after death. Beautiful and bitter Rebecca has come to the crumbling seaside village of Winterfold with her police-officer father to escape the consequences of a deadly choice he made. She meets Ferelith, a peculiar local girl who prefers "things that are frightening," and who convinces Rebecca to join her in rebellious and perilous activities. Ferelith shares a troubling story of dark doings in the history of Winterfold, which leads to the third part of this tale, which is told through excerpts from the diary of a priest, written in 1798, about a devilish scientific experiment. The three characters around whom the narrative revolves are well realized and realistically flawed, and the story is hugely compelling. The plot moves forward with Sedgwick dangling juicy details in front of readers, revealing just enough information to keep them guessing, never allowing everything to be exposed at once. As all the puzzle pieces fall into place, the peril for the girls rises to a terrifying crescendo, and teens will have no choice but to continue until the last page is turned.—Heather M. Campbell, formerly at Philip S. Miller Library, Castle Rock, CO
Kirkus Reviews

Two girls are brought together more from ennui than anything else in this riveting tale that brings the murderous history of a disintegrating coastal town into the present.

Rebecca moves to Winterfold with her disgraced father, a policeman accused—but not convicted—of failure to do his duty, which resulted in a death. Her boyfriend quickly moves on, and, left to her own resources, she discovers Ferelith, a girl close in age, but miles away in capacity for dangerous stunts. Neither girl likes the other much, but there's little else to distract them. Judiciously interspersed are extracts from the 1798 diary of a parson who has met a French newcomer and discovers that they are both fascinated to know what science can tell them of the afterlife. As the grisly experiments of the past are gradually revealed, so dothe girls embark on increasingly dangerous games of daring, uneasily testing their trust and knowledge of each other.While at any moment they could walk away from the nightmare that only readers know is unfolding, these casual choices nonetheless lead them onward. The sea is eroding the coast, and the half-demolished buildings perched on cliff tops add a physical component to the unease. Masterfully plotted to keep the suspense ratcheting ever higher.

Wickedly macabre and absolutely terrifying.(Horror.14 & up)

Product Details

Roaring Brook Press
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Age Range:
12 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt



The earth quakes, the graves burst open, the dead arise and stream on in endless procession. The trumpets of the apocalypse ring out.

There is no judgment, no sinners, no just men, no great and no small; there is no punishment and no reward. A feeling of overwhelming love fills us with bliss.

We know, and are. And we know with all certainty. God does exist.


She could have been anyone.

She could have been any girl who arrived in Winterfold that summer.

That sounds strange, doesn't it?

It sounds strange to my ears, anyway. Summer in Winterfold. How can there ever be any other season here but winter, with a name like that? But whatever the time of year, Winterfold has a cold embrace and, like the snows of winter, it does not let you go easily.

Once upon a time there was a whole town here, not just a handful of houses. A town with twelve churches and thousands of people, dozens of streets, and a busy harbor.

And then the sea ate it.

Storm by storm, year by year, the cliffs collapsed into the advancing sea, taking the town with it, house by house and street by street, until all that was left was a triangle of three streets, a dozen houses, an inn, a church. Well, most of it ...

And then, that summer, she arrived. And actually I'm lying.

She couldn't have been anyone, because the moment I saw her beautiful face I knew I loved her, and I knew she would love me, too.

I knew.


Rebecca slides out of her father's car and the first thing she notices is the smell.

She sniffs the air and, without knowing it, tries to break it all down. She gets some of it. She gets the hot salty air of the seaside, the tar of the fishing boats hauled up on the beach just out of sight over the ridge, the marram grass of the marshes inland, the hot engine oil because her father has hauled the old car all the way from Greenwich to this God-forgotten place.

She pulls back a long curl of hair blown into her face by the stiff breeze from the shore. Her father pops the trunk of the car and grabs both of her bags at once.

The tiny cottage, idiotically named The Mansion, is disappointing; dark, with low ceilings.

Her father drops the bags on a shabby rug, kicks the door shut behind him with the heel of his boot.

"Well," he says, but Rebecca already doesn't want to hear. She knows what's coming next. "Your home for the next six weeks. Welcome."

He's trying to sound carefree, and opens his arms as if he thinks she'll run into them.

She doesn't. Slowly his arms fall back to his sides.

"Your room's at the top of the stairs. Here, I'll show you."

"I'll find it," Rebecca says, taking her bags. She turns her back on him, though even as she does so she hates herself.

Her room is a little better than downstairs. She drops her stuff and goes to the window, pulling her backpack off as she does and throwing it on the bed.

There is the sea.

Just beyond the ridge that slopes up to the right to become the cliffs, there's the beach, and the sea, and it burns brightly blue this afternoon, a diamond sea sparkling in the hot sun.

She turns to her backpack on the bed, knowing she has lost.

For a moment she wonders what exactly it is that she's lost, and decides it's a few different things, though what she feels most is that she's lost the battle to stop hurting herself.

The bag had been between her feet all the way from Greenwich, and yes, they'd had the radio on loud to hide the fact that neither of them was speaking, but even so, she would have heard it.

So she knows that Adam hasn't called, and she knows there's no point looking but, unable to stop herself, she unzips the front pocket and pulls out her phone.

She stares at the blank screen. Nothing. Nothing. No texts. No missed calls.

For a second she tells herself there's probably been no reception since halfway through the journey, but she has a couple of bars.

She knows that he's not interested. She tells herself to be strong, but that lasts for five short heartbeats, and then she pushes redial.

When he answers, he sounds surprised to hear her.


She hasn't thought what she's going to say, so it comes out, blunt and raw.

"You said you'd call."

"I did."

"No you didn't. You said you'd call. Three days ago."

"I will," he lies, barely trying to sound as though he means it.

"You won't, because I left today," Rebecca stabs. "So you won't be coming around now. You ..."

"Becky, listen ... You don't need to ... Look, I've got to go."

Then there's laughter at the other end of the phone. Several voices. His mates. A girl's high-pitched laughter rises over the babble.

Rebecca holds the phone away from her head as if it's burning her. Slowly, she moves her thumb over the keys and ends the call. She drops the phone on the bed and stares at it for a long minute, then goes downstairs, fingering the silver crucifix Adam gave her for her birthday. It wasn't a religious thing, more a Goth thing.

Until then, she'd always worn a silver heart pendant. It had been given to her by her dad years ago, when Mum had died. He'd told Rebecca it was so she'd always remember he was there for her, that he loved her, even when they weren't together. But when Adam gave her the crucifix, she'd taken off the heart pendant and hadn't worn it since.

Maybe her dad had noticed. Neither of them had said anything about it. She tried not to feel bad about it; she wasn't Daddy's little girl anymore; it was stupid to cling to that kind of stuff anyway.

Her father comes out of the kitchen.

"Nice room, isn't it?"

She opens the front door.

"I'm going out," she says.

"I'll do something quick. For seven. Don't be too long."

But she's already gone, into the hot late afternoon, and she's so preoccupied that she's unaware of the various eyes that are appraising her.

The new girl.

She blinks in the blazing sun, and looks to her left and right. She turns left, and passes the pub. Briefly she notices the sign. The Angel. It's beautiful, handmade, maybe many years old, but someone has freshly repainted it. A beautiful stylized angel, handsome, with blond curling hair and glowing white robes, a golden halo and a golden sword. He stares into the blue-sky corner of the sign, as if staring up to God. His face is serene, and yet full of yearning, too.

The inn marks the end of the street, and here the road turns back inland, up past the ruins of the priory, so she takes the trail down to the beach. She's taken only a few steps when she sees a footpath leading into the darkness of the woods on the cliff.

The beach is full of happy laughing people, sunshine and sea, and joy. All these things feel dead to her. She considers the path up into the darkness, where she can take her pain away from all the brightness, and hide it.

That's the way she chooses.

There arrived a newcomer to Winterfold today, and God-to-tell, that is a rare enough happening, but further to that, something even more remarkable: he has taken the Hall.

At the inn, they say he is French, and his name is indeed French. He is called Dr. Barrieux, but Martha told me that his voice is not foreign, but that he speaks English as Jesus did.

Bless Martha. At least she cooks passably well.

I learned more of our newcomer today, and yes, Grimes at the Angel Inn said to me that indeed he is newly come from France, from Paris. From Paris! To Winterfold! Think on that. From that most recent hotbed of foment and revolution to our sleepy village, a backwater on any map.

He has taken the Hall, Winterfold Hall, even though it has been empty these long years. For sure, Grimes says, he has been placing a great number of orders for supplies, for vittles and drink, for tools and diverse materials, and also various items of function not known to Grimes.

A hot day today, and one on which wearing the cloth of God was a great burden. I sweltered through my duties and, of course, gave succor to the needy and comfort to the weak, but God curse me, I was only too ready to return to the rectory and divest myself at the end of the day.

I lay on my cot, naked like a baby, listening to the seas on the shore, hoping to feel the coolness of the coast stroke my fat belly, but there was not a breath of breeze. It was as hot as Hell.

As Hell.

If Hell is indeed hot.


I might have been normal, but if I was I cannot remember that time.

Once, for my birthday, my mother gave me a book of poetry. They were poems of her own, because she was a poet, and she had written a whole cycle of poems about me. The first ones she had written before I was born, when she was pregnant with me, and the others when I was small.

"This is your gift," she said to me. "Your gift from me. It's better than chocolate, or a toy, because no one else has these poems, and they will last forever."

I was eight years old.

I remember that I nodded solemnly.

"Mother," I said, "you are a genius; you are a poet just like Shakespeare. Like him, you have suns, planets, ants, frightening skeletons. I prefer things that are frightening."

I was eight years old when I said that.

Mother smiled, but even as she did I could see sadder things in her eyes behind her smile.


The weekend drags by for Rebecca as she realizes just how little there is to do in Winterfold. Her father, though he has nothing to do, spends the time finding ways of being busy, of being away, of being absent. He goes for long walks, presumably to try and clear his head.

She hardly sees him.

She lies on her bed for hour after hour, killing three books from cover to cover and as she ends each one drops them broken-spined onto the rough, old floorboards.

They collide briefly during mealtimes, until on Tuesday her father's early return to the house forces her out into the heat.

She explores Winterfold. It takes about twenty minutes. She tells herself off for being a silly city girl, and explores it again properly. This time it takes twenty-five.

There's The Street, where their rented cottage is. It nestles halfway along the row, with its back to the sea, a late medieval cottage with two and a half rooms down and two rooms up. No two houses are alike; there are some older cottages, some more recent ones, probably Victorian. It's like a short lesson in the architecture of English villages. The Street runs parallel to the shore, but the sea is almost entirely hidden behind the houses.

At its northern end are the village shop and a junction. A road leads across the marshes to Crowburgh, while The Street doglegs sharply back inland, with one or two expensive old houses dotted down either side. She can hear a garden party in full swing behind a high brick wall, the raucous music at odds with the Englishness of it all.

She turns and walks back along The Street, past The Mansion.

At the southern end is the pub, from where a small dirt road bumbles down to the beach parking lot, where a notice warns that it can get flooded at times of exceptional tide. The sign brings a smile to her face: a solemn diagram of a car half underwater, a stick-man driver standing on its roof waving for help.

Here again, the road turns back sharply inland, running past the entrance to the ruins of the Priory, once thriving, now just ghosts and stones. Farther on are more big houses behind high walls and hedges, until this road meets the one coming from the other end of The Street, and the triangle that is Winterfold is completed.

Rebecca finds herself at the entrance to the path into the woods again, and again she is drawn in.

She notices another, easier path — straighter — running along the back of the woods, but it looks well used, the sort of path dog walkers take to make sure they have a chat with someone. So she chooses the smaller, steeply twisting path into the thin sliver of woods that stands between her and the sea.

She waits a moment as her eyes adjust to the gloom after the bright sunshine of the village, enjoying the sudden cool of the greenness. She retraces her steps from Saturday, but sees a glimpse of blue through the thick undergrowth, and impulsively she pushes off the trail and through elder bushes and nettles.

She finds herself in a new universe just a few paces wide.

What she has found is a clearing in the woods, once probably well inland, but now eaten in half by the cliffs. Behind her, she's hemmed in by a semicircle of densely packed branches and leaves, a wall. She stands on a patch of neatly cropped grass, right up to the point where the land falls away, and beyond that is the infinity of the sea.

It's like a little room, without a roof, and with natural walls and floor, and the best view of the sea anyone could ever have. There ought to be a bench, but there isn't, and somehow that pleases her. She wonders who keeps the grass short, then notices the rabbit droppings everywhere.

The temptation to jump comes on her suddenly.

There is the cliff in front of her, only steps away, and timidly, like a frightened cat, she creeps toward the drop.

She's very close to the edge before she sees just how high the cliff is. She can see the beach below, and she knows it would be enough to kill her if she fell.

She pictures herself stepping off and it makes her head swim, so she creeps back and gazes out at the sea.

It's a unique place, and though she can hear sounds from the village over the rush of the waves on the beach, it feels a million miles from anywhere or anyone.

It's the need for the comfort of childhood that starts her daydreaming. It's a safe thing to do, something that does not rely on her father, or Adam, or anyone else. Happy memories are invincible, protected and protecting, no one can destroy them.

Words drift into her head, images from books. For some reason she's thinking of Treasure Island, but she knows why; she's found the best pirate's lookout point that ever was. Treasure Island,Robinson Crusoe,Swiss Family Robinson. Then music. She's thinking about the cliffs and a song about bluebirds, but not even realizing she's got two different songs mixed up, the song in her head is Dorothy's from The Wizard of Oz.

She remembers the production at little school, smiling, remembering the blue gingham dress that she wore, and wonders if she can still hit those first two notes, a whole octave apart.

Some-where —

She falters, stops, and tries again, louder this time, and hits it perfectly.

Some-where —

And before she can utter another note, the line is finished by a voice behind her.

Over the rainbow, bluebirds fly ...

Her heart racing, Rebecca spins around, catching her heel on a rabbit hole.

She falls, and knowing the cliff is at her back, her hands flail wildly, grasping for the ground.

She ends up on her side, winded, her head hanging into thin, clear space.

She looks up into the eyes of the strangest-looking girl she's ever seen.

The strange girl says a strange word.


Rebecca faints.


I left school when I was fourteen.

I left because there was nothing else that anyone could teach me. I know this sounds like I'm boasting, but it's just the truth. It was on the day that I found myself explaining Game Theory to my math teacher that I knew there was no point being there any longer.

I got up from my seat, ignoring all the names and the insults from the others.

"Ferelith!" my teacher yelled. "Sit down!"

I didn't.

I walked out of the classroom, straight out of the school gates, and down to the bypass, and I put my thumb out until a truck stopped and I hitchhiked all the way home.

When I got home I expected a lecture about how dangerous it was to hitchhike, but my father had other things on his mind.

That was the day I realized that if there is a God in the sky, then he's vindictive and cruel, because I arrived home to find my mother being taken away in an ambulance. There actually were men in white coats. It's really funny, if you think about it.

But I tried not to.

I visited Mother a few weeks later, but the trip to the home where she had been sent upset me so much, my father never took me again. Anyway, he lost interest after a couple of months, not just in her but in me, too, so that was that and when he went away I was left on my own.

So instead I made Winterfold my own, my own place, and I continued my education, in two ways. First, I used the Internet, because I couldn't afford the bus into town to go to the library, and anyway the library is really old and the books on the shelves there are dying.

Secondly, I continued my education in a more important way, through the observation of everyone around me, because nothing is more important to learn in life than the interaction of a human being with another human being.

And that's what I did for a few years, and it suited me fine. Winterfold was the perfect place for my strange life. Claustrophobic. I lived a life of confinement while I bided my time. Maybe it's not how everyone lives, but I don't mind about that.


Excerpted from "White Crow"
by .
Copyright © 2011 Marcus Sedgwick.
Excerpted by permission of Roaring Brook Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

MARCUS SEDGWICK is most recently the author of Revolver, which was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal in the UK and received four starred reviews in the US. The author of eleven widely admired previous novels, he lives in Sussex, England.
Marcus Sedgwick was born and raised in Kent in South East England, but now lives in the French Alps. His books have won and been shortlisted for many awards; most notably, he has been shortlisted for Britain’s Carnegie Medal six times, has received two Printz Honors, for Revolver and Ghosts of Heaven, and in 2013 won the Printz Award for Midwinterblood.

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White Crow 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
SpartanReading More than 1 year ago
The White Crow I give this book 4 stars, because it doesn’t evolve into its true meaning until you’re in the middle of the book. In the beginning all it truly talks about is Rebecca’s and Ferelith’s “adventures” together, and how much Rebecca misses her friends back home. Until you get to the middle where all the secretes start pouring out into place. The book is told by three people Rebecca the new girl in town, a priest, and Ferelith the girl that’s lived in Witerfold all her life, and knows all of Winterfolds darkest secretes! Rebecca is new in the very small town of Winterfold. Winterfold is slowly going away has the high tides of the ocean eat away the sides of Winterfold little by little. When Rebecca moved to Winterfold it was so her dad a Detective Inspector could go away for a bit while the rumors of his involvement of a teen’s murder die down. The priest talks about life after death. If Hell and Heaven truly exists, or if it’s just a myth. As the book goes deeper into the dark I guarantee you will get the chills and ask yourself if there is a such thing as heaven and if there is will you be there after death. I would recommend this book to anyone that loves a horror book. Also if you think about hell and heaven this book may answer questions. This is something said by the priest “Hell is upon me. Hell is upon us all, unseen at every turn. Lord, will you not save us yet? Must we wait so long? Must we wait in vain”? This also said by the priest “Lord mend me! Save me! Before it is too late”. Will you dare to read this book?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just read the sample. It's not eye catching it is kinda boring
Anonymous More than 1 year ago