Just when I think that I'm all full up of end-of-the-world/vampire/YA books, something like The Hallowed Ones comes along and takes me on a 'unputdownable' ride. I was immediately drawn into the serenity of the Amish world through Katie's eyes. Bickle's ability to paint an accessible picture of this peaceful, calm community is just fantastic and her atmospheric descriptions of their way of life sets the tableau for a story that gradually tips into horror and shock as the catastrophe that has occurred on the 'The Outside' gradually infects their community.
Katie is a good 'Plain' girl but no milksop! On the verge of her Rumspringa, a time when Amish youths spend time outside the community for a taste of modern life, Katie is forced to put her dreams on hold when uncertain events on The Outside have the group's Elders prohibiting anyone from coming in or out of their community. Finding an injured boy on the edge of their property, Katie smuggles him in despite being forbidden to, unable to turn her back on someone needing help. As the suspense grows we see Katie discover how what she's come to accept as her future change as she struggles to reconcile what she feels is the best course of action with her faith and obedience to her family and people. Katie is strong, self-reliant, thoughtful and pragmatic. Despite her sheltered upbringing she has a good head on her shoulders and she is absolutely a heroine I admired.
I can't not mention the slow, simmering romance that added an interesting dimension to the story as Alex, our wounded outsider, becomes Katie's secret confider as things get worse. They come together in a sweet and comfortable way that I loved.
I'm lucky that I read this right as book 2 has come out since I can't wait to see what happens next.