Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher

The Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher
Release Date – January 7, 2013
Publisher Website –  Scholastic
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 384 pages
My Rating - 4.5/5
**received from publisher for an honest review**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Fatal attraction, primal fear, survival in the forest: From the author of the Printz Honor Book STOLEN, the highly anticipated thriller about deadly games played in the dark.

Ashlee Parker is dead, and Emily Shepherd's dad is accused of the crime. A former soldier suffering from PTSD, he emerges from the woods carrying the girl's broken body. "Gone," he says, then retreats into silence.

What really happened that wild night? Emily knows in her bones that her father is innocent -- isn't he? Before he's convicted, she's got to find out the truth. Does Damon Hilary, Ashlee's charismatic boyfriend, have the answers? Or is he only playing games with her -- the kinds of games that can kill?
Lucy Christopher's Stolen was the first novel I reviewed on this blog. It remains one of my favourite (and most heart crushing) reads to this day. When I heard that The Killing Woods was being released I was ecstatic. I am thrilled that my high expectations were warranted, as The Killing Woods is an intense, twisty read that made my pulse race.

The setting of this novel is all encompassing. The woods surrounding Emily's house are a character in this story all on their own. Thye seem to breathe and come to life within these pages in a way that allowed me to slip into the peaceful, eerie and secret filled setting. Lucy Christopher manages to make you feel like a part of the setting and the research and care she puts into the descriptions is glaringly evident.

The suspense is kept throughout the novel. We're offered more than one suspect in the case of who may have killed Ashlee Parker. Each of the suspects are viable options, and each have their own motivations. Lucy Christopher weaves doubt, and twists into the story so that you're constantly changing your mind as to what happened. The truth, well unexpected, fit within the story. It also rang true to Ashlee's character, and the running narrative of the lives of these characters. It also turned the story into something I wasn't expecting. I went in expecting a completely different kind of novel, and Lucy twisted it into something else entirely.

The story is told in a dual narrative. Emily, and Damon each narrate their own part of this story. This allows us to learn things that we would not be privy to without this style of narration. Often my biggest complaint with this type of narrative is that there isn't a difference in the voice of the characters. Lucy manages to create two distinctive voices. We take different journeys with both Emily and Damon, but each leads to the truth of what happened in a way that shows how one would not be complete without the other.

Emily is the kind of character I would love to see more of. She's a typical teenage girl, living a normal life. She isn't remarkable, she's average. Her life is turned upside when her father carries Ashlee Parker's body out of the woods in a dazed state. Her family life had already been rocked by her father's return from war with PTSD. They're a family just trying to piece together some semblance of what they had before. Her passionate support of her father, her driven desire to clear his name, and her need for the truth is all something that leaps off the page. It defines Emily's character. Her worry that her father may have killed Ashlee, and not because he is suffering from PTSD, haunts her. She is afraid of not only what it says about her family, but what it means for her. Her fear that she shares her father's blood and the impact that could have if he is a stone cold killer, is chilling. It eats away at her, until she is unraveling and unsure what she believes. Seeing her loose faith, and question everything she was sure about allows the reader to feel a sympathy for her, and lets us into her head.

Damon is an enigma. His role is Ashlee's death is undefined for most of the novel. You, and Emily, are not quite sure what to believe when it comes to him. His reckless lifestyle that includes the mysterious 'game' mentioned is something that lends itself to secrets and lies. There is a delusion of invincibility that often is associated with teengers, and Damon displays this in spades. He, and others, have to face their own vulnerability in the wake of what happens. The desire for the thrill, the need to push the limits, and to go a little further is in every aspect of Damon (and his friends) and that makes for a fascinating look at how things can spiral out of control.

A pulse pounding look at how things can quickly escalate to the point of no return. A story of how secrets can do more harm than we expect. It's also one of healing, and holding on to your convictions. Lucy Christopher has one again provided a novel that is spell binding and spine tingling.

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