by Kim Savage
Published by Farrar, Strauss and Giroux
on February 23, 2016
Source: ARC from publisher for review
Synopsis from Goodreads: Would you risk your life to save your best friend? Julia did. When a paroled predator attacked Liv in the woods, Julia fought back and got caught. Liv ran, leaving Julia in the woods for a terrifying 48 hours that she remembers only in flashbacks. One year later, Liv seems bent on self-destruction, starving herself, doing drugs, and hooking up with a violent new boyfriend. A dead girl turns up in those same woods, and Julia’s memories resurface alongside clues unearthed by an ambitious reporter that link the girl to Julia’s abductor. As the devastating truth becomes clear, Julia realizes that after the woods was just the beginning.
My take: The post office initially misdelivered my ARC of After the Woods, and I got it months after I was supposed to receive it. But I'm really happy that it found its way to me, because I enjoyed it.
At first, I really wasn't sure about it. After the Woods is one of those books that takes a while to make sense. The story opens with two girls dealing with the aftereffects of a traumatic event. Julia, still suffering from some memory issues, is angry and confused about what happened to her and annoyed by the well-meaning adults who promise to help her, from psychologists to a glamorous local news anchor. Julia's best friend Liv seems bent on self-destruction, dabbling with bad boyfriends and making bad choices.
There were several things I liked about After the Woods. Since I read a lot of YA, I often feel that after twenty pages or so of a book, I can see exactly where it's going: to a place I've been many times before. After the Woods felt a little more unexpected -- I didn't get the typical abducted girl story. I can't explain too much without spoilers, but a lot about this book isn't what it seems. After a bit, I did figure out where I thought the book was going, and I was right, but it did keep me guessing for some time. After a brief adjustment period, I liked Julia as a character and a narrator. Her voice is wry, self-deprecating and a little dark, reminding me a bit of Libby Day in Gillian Flynn's Dark Places.
Since the book's been out for a bit, I have read a few reviews, and see that some readers found the book's characters stereotypical. I agree and disagree. Yes, there are surly teenagers and troubled teenagers and tightly wound parents and a creepy villain. But I thought all of them were sharply and skillfully drawn in a way that made them all interesting.
If you enjoy psychological suspense, narrators with an edge, and books that keep you guessing, you should definitely try After the Woods.
This book will be one of my choices for this week's Freebie Friday, so if you'd like to read it, be sure to stop by!