Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Teen/YA Review: The Killing Woods

As part of my annual RIP Challenge this fall, I read a YA novel that has been on my TBR shelf for much too long: The Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher. I loved Christopher's YA novel, Stolen, and her middle-grade novel, Flyaway. This newer (well, published here in 2014!) novel combines thriller-like action and suspense with emotional complexity that delves into some important issues.

Emily's dad recently returned from war and is suffering from severe PTSD. He is afraid of everything and spends much of his time in the woods behind their home. He suffers from flashbacks, especially when loud noises, like thunder, startle him, and he has difficulty with his memory and with speaking sometimes. One stormy night, he comes into the house carrying the limp body of a teenage girl. Emily recognizes Ashlee, a popular girl from her class at school, and she and her mom try to find out what happened. Emily's dad is clearly in the midst of a flashback, though, and speaking incoherently, repeating the same sentences and phrases he always does when remembering what he's been through in the past. The police don't understand that, though, and they arrest him and later charge him with Ashlee's murder. Meanwhile, unknown to Emily, Ashlee's boyfriend, Damon, and the rest of their friends are panicking because they play a secret game in the woods that they don't want anyone to find out about. Emily doesn't think her dad is capable of this crime, but the rest of their town believes it. What really happened to Ashlee back there that night?

Chapters alternate between Emily's and Damon's points of view, but neither of them knows exactly what happened that night, so the story slowly comes together. This novel was perfect for the season, dark and filled with suspense and action. As with Christopher's other novels, though, it is so much more than that, digging into topics like PTSD, death of a parent, and teens seeking increasingly dangerous thrills. It is definitely for older teens and young adults, with teen drinking, drugs, and sex dealt with in very honest ways (though certainly not glorified). This novel was a thrill ride, and every time I thought I had it figured out, another twist took me by surprise, right up until the stunning conclusion. It's fast-paced and exciting but also thoughtful and heartwarming. Now, I need to read the latest Lucy Christopher novel waiting on my shelf, Storm-Wake!

359 pages,  Chicken House, an imprint of Scholastic

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. My review is my own opinion and is not influenced by my relationship with the publisher or author.

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I read this one in print, but the audio book sounds excellent. Listen to a sample here.

You can purchase The Killing Woods from an indie bookstore, either locally or online, here:
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  1. Another good thriller to read!

    1. Lucy Christopher's novels are always worth a read!