The Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher

12891845445 c0695523be o The Killing Woods by Lucy ChristopherBuy The Killing Woods
Special $15.89 (Regular price: $17.99)
Publisher: Chicken House / Scholastic
Format: Hardcover
Reviewer: Melissa on March 6, 2014
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Emily’s father is accused of murdering a teenage girl, but Emily is sure that he’s innocent. The only problem is that in order to prove her instincts right, she needs to find out what happened that hot, summer night in the woods behind her house, the very woods where she used to play as a child. In order to understand what really happened, she seeks out Damon Hillary, the mysterious boyfriend of the murdered girl. Like Emily, he also knows these woods. She thinks that, perhaps, they could help each other understand the truth about what really happened that night. However, Damon has secrets of his own about a dark game he plays in the darkness of Dark Wood. In The Killing Woods, Lucy Christopher offers up a chilling, psychological thriller in the same vein as her award winning and bestselling novel, Stolen.

To say that I’ve been waiting a long time for a new young adult novel by Lucy Christopher is an understatement. Her debut novel, Stolen, is one of the first YA novels that I read and reviewed on behalf of a publisher, and it has remained one of my favorite YA thrillers to this day. From the setting and atmosphere to Christopher’s unique ability to shift the reader’s sympathies from complete antipathy for to understanding of the villain, it is hard for me to find anything at fault with that novel. Therefore, I’m sure that you can understand why I jumped at the chance to review her recent release, even without knowing the subject matter or setting it would explore. (What can I say, some writers just have that “must read” effect on me.) And I’m really glad that I embarked on the journey with the author and her main characters: Emily and Damon.

Like Stolen, The Killing Woods depicts a complicated narrative with several twists and turns along the way. However, whereas it was possible for me to guess where the main character of the former novel would end up, I think it would be truly impossible to guess where Christopher is going to take you this time around, other than to a dark place. Perhaps it’s because Emily seems to have so little to hide at the beginning of the novel, but I think it’s inevitable that readers will want to side with her, will want her conviction that her father is innocent of both manslaughter and first degree murder to be accurate. Maybe it’s because no matter how flawed we realize our parents are, we still want them to more closely resemble a hero than a villain that Emily’s certainty is so appealing. On the other hand, Damon and a lot about who he is and the things that occupy his time and mind are shrouded in deliberate mystery by the author. Not only is Damon fuzzy on the events that happened on the night Ashlee died, but also he is a little vague about exactly what game him, Mack, Ashlee, and the other guys were playing. Is it possible that the game he thought was going on between the five of them was very different? You’ll have to read to find out, but know that with every page you turn, this book will get just that much scarier.

From the dark beginning, Christopher takes her readers on a fast-paced journey into the mysterious woods behind Emily’s house, slowly revealing clues about what really happened on the night that Ashlee died, the good and bad sides of the characters, and twisting both Emily and Damon’s convictions about the events and the readers simultaneously. In addition by focusing on a small, military town, Christopher also makes good use of a family’s experience with a father and husband who is suffering from PTSD as well as the psychology of teens whose fathers never make it home. When added up together, the author has a sure fire way to get the audience hooked, keep them turning pages until a clear understanding of what really happened is revealed, and creates characters who may resonate with teen readers with family members who have been or who are/were fighting overseas. The Killing Woods is a great book with an ending that you won’t see coming, but overall, I prefer her first YA novel.

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