on February 23rd 2016
Genres: Young Adult
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Julia knows she beat the odds. She escaped the kidnapper who hunted her in the woods for two terrifying nights that she can't fully remember. Now it's one year later, and a dead girl turns up in those same woods. The terrible memories resurface, leaving Julia in a stupor at awkward moments-in front of gorgeous Kellan MacDougall, for example.
At least Julia's not alone. Her best friend, Liv, was in the woods, too. When Julia got caught, Liv ran away. Is Liv's guilt over leaving Julia the reason she's starving herself? Is hooking up with Shane Cuthbert, an addict with an explosive temper, Liv's way of punishing herself for not having Julia's back? As the devastating truth about Liv becomes clear, Julia realizes the one person she thinks she knows best-Liv-is the person she knows least of all. And that after the woods was just the beginning.
I become very still, trying to make myself shapeless so he’ll forget I am a GIRL, because that feels the most dangerous of all.
After the Woods is a really strong debut. It’s a taut, psychological thriller that is more about intricate relationships and family secrets than it is a “whodunnit?”
The premise of “two girls go into a wood” sounds all too familiar, and yet this book pulls away from the rest of the pile, standing out as one of the best YA thrillers I’ve ever read. Mostly because it uncovers the mysteries lying beneath the surface of people, delving deep inside teen girl friendships, mother/daughter dynamics and Julia’s introspection as she deals with being both a victim and a heroine.
One year ago, Julia and Liv were attacked by a man while running in the woods. It seems he initially wanted Liv, but settled for Julia when an act of bravery or instinct caused her to take her friend’s place. Eventually, she got away and Donald Jessup was arrested, but the effects of that day will linger for a long time afterward.
Julia is still dealing with the fear and the nightmares. And, more than that, she’s dealing with a sense that something isn’t quite all it seems. When a dead body is found in the same woods, she promises an interview to a local reporter in exchange for information.
Statistically speaking, girls like me don’t come back when guys like Donald Jessup take us.
As more is uncovered, Julia starts to question her memories, what really happened, and whether Liv knows something more than she’s said. It’s beautifully-written and tightly-plotted, ensuring that even the most astute mystery readers will be surprised, but it also offers up a wonderfully-conceived portrait of family and friendship to make After the Woods way more than a typical mystery.
And the truly unsettling notion this novel leaves us with is that the psychopath who kidnaps teen girls in the woods might not be the worst monster in this story.