The Steep and Thorny Way

Originally published by Abrams
Hardcover, ISBN 9781419719158
Paperback, ISBN 9781419723506
Ebook, ISBN 9781613129067

Something's rotten in the state of Oregon.

Hanalee Denney's hometown is not a welcoming place in the 1920s. Hanalee is the daughter of a white woman and an African-American man, so she has almost no rights by law. If that weren't enough, the Ku Klux Klan is a powerful force in the area, breeding fear and hatred, even among friends. Her father, Hank Denney, died a year ago, hit by a drunk-driving teenager. Now the killer is out of jail and back in town . . . but he claims that Hank wasn’t killed by the accident at all, but, instead, was poisoned by the doctor who looked after him—who just happens to be Hanalee’s new stepfather. The only way for Hanalee to get the answers she desperately needs is to ask her father—a “haint” who wanders the roads at night.

Inspired by Hamlet and infused with the real history and feel of Prohibition-era Oregon, The Steep and Thorny Way is a gripping and thoughtful story of intolerance, forgiveness, and finding one's own path.

Awards & Recognition:

• A Kirkus Best Teen Book of 2016 
• 2016 Junior Library Guild Selection
Booklist's 2016 Top 10 Crime Fiction for Youth
• YALSA's 2017 Best Fiction for Young Adults
• Chicago Public Library's Best Teen Fiction of 2016
• 2017 Rainbow Book List
• 2017 Capitol Choices Nominee 
• 2016 Locus Recommended Reading List 
• 2018 Oklahoma High School Sequoyah Masterlist
  • 2017 OYAN Book Rave Best Books for Teens
• 2017-2018 Oregon Battle of the Books  
• 2017 Jefferson Cup Award Winner for Young Adult Readers  
• 2016 Oregon Spirit Book Awards Honor Book
• 2017 TAYSHAS
• 2018 Blue Hen Book Award for Teen Readers Nominee


“A fast-paced read with multiple twists, the novel delivers a history lesson wrapped inside a murder mystery and ghost story. Winters deftly captures the many injustices faced by marginalized people in the years following World War I as well as a glimmer of hope for the better America to come. A riveting story of survival, determination, love, and friendship.”
Kirkus, starred review

★ “A powerful, gripping, and exceptionally well-executed glimpse into a little-known corner of U.S. history.”
Booklist, starred review

★ “Hanalee is a fantastic lead, armed with a two-barreled pistol and led by the lost soul of her father . . . the backdrop of Prohibition-era Oregon, punched up with bootleggers, a hidden gay relationship, the public and private face of the Ku Klux Klan, and a dash of the supernatural makes for a delightfully unpredictable page-turner . . . Unique and riveting historical fiction that feels anything but dated.”
School Library Journal, starred review

“This spellbinding mystery/ghost story is fast-paced, twisty, and unafraid to take on important issues in a way that's both thought-provoking and hopeful.”
Justine Magazine

“This is genre-pushing historical fiction that will surprise and enlighten readers.”
Horn Book

 “With a twisting and revenge-driven plot, Winters creates a diverse cast of characters through which she explores the power of secrets and fear and the heartbreaking consequences of prejudice.”
VOYA Magazine

This version of Hamlet is just as dark and compelling as the original, but refreshingly modern.
—Toronto Star 

“Haunting, beautifully written and immensely powerful, this is a story that resonates through time and history whilst delivering a clever and compelling thriller.”
The Lancashire Evening Post

“Shakespeare’s Hamlet serves as the obvious framework for the plot, but the story soon shakes that off, evolving into its own unique and harrowing account of the ways in which people hurt each other out of ignorance and fear. Hanalee’s narration is folksy and immediate, and readers are with her every step of the way as she pieces together the puzzle of her father’s death and wipes away her town’s veneer of acceptance.”
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

“Winters stands apart as a unique YA literature 
storyteller . . . The Steep and Thorny Way will provoke thought about how far we’ve come as a society and how far we have yet to go.”

“Cat Winters clearly and descriptively depicts a way of life in rural Oregon that most are not aware of . . . The historical accuracy provides a powerful sense of realism.”
ALAN Picks

“A roller coaster ride of a novel.”

“Winters is a genius at subverting expectations. The Steep & Thorny Way is not a simple retelling. It contains multiple twists I did not see coming. The second half of the story takes on a life of its own, with original and compelling new stakes for Hanalee.”
Barnes & Noble Teen Blog

“Cat Winters (In the Shadow of Blackbirds) mines Shakespeare's Hamlet for the plot and characters in her excellent, spellbinding novel set in 1923 Oregon . . . a powerful, painful story of love and courage.”
 Shelf Awareness

Winters has carved out an interesting niche in young-adult fiction with her historical ghost stories . . . Hanalee, Joe, and Fleur are complex characters living in complicated times who have broad appeal, making this thriller a hard title to put down.
Locus Magazine

“I was kept guessing until the very end.”
The Guardian

“This is historical fiction at its best.”
—International Literacy Association

“Cat Winters proves herself the master of YA historical fiction in this richly woven, theatrical tale of haints, friendship, and a time period we don't dare forget.”
Megan Shepherd, author of The Madman's Daughter series

“Haunting, visceral, and atmospheric, Cat Winters's The Steep and Thorny Way is a fantastic read from one of the best in the genre.”
—RenĂ©e Ahdieh, author of The Wrath and the Dawn

A tale of secrets, murder, intolerance, friendship, and restless spirits, seen through the eyes of the vibrant, truth-seeking, pistol-slinging Hanalee. Marvelous.”
—April Genevieve Tucholke, author of Wink, Poppy, Midnight