Published by Chicken House on October, 2013
Genres: Thriller, Young Adult
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Emily’s dad is accused of murdering a teenage girl. Emily is sure he is innocent, but what happened that night in the woods behind their house where she used to play as a child? Determined to find out, she seeks out Damon Hillary the enigmatic boyfriend of the murdered girl. He also knows these woods. Maybe they could help each other. But he’s got secrets of his own about games that are played in the dark.
Creepy, dark stories are certainly ones that I enjoy, for the way they can scare you from a few well written passages. The Killing Woods is written around a deep, dark forest where a dangerous game is played within it which leads to an unexpected murder of a popular girl, Ashlee.
The suspect of the murder is a war veteran who walks into his home carrying the dead body. He suffers from hallucinations and PTSD (yes, my 3rd PTSD book this month!) and has no recollection of committing the murder but blames it on his visions. Narrated by the veteran’s daughter, and the boyfriend of the victim, The Killing Woods delivers a haunting, atmospheric tale full of twists and dark secrets. This is the part of the story that was done well, describing the secrets that the woods hold from hidden evidence, to a bunker filled with disturbing images, and the dangerous suicide rock where people can fall to their deaths.
Emily is set out to find out the truth when her father admits to manslaughter, and she’s subjected to bullying from everyone including her friends. I questioned some of her actions, like why she would hang around the woods at night following a murder, why she would go after Damon’s friends and why she had this perverse attraction to Damon, and the story didn’t explore some of these tangents. Luckily there’s no romance story here because there is no place for it here, given who the narrators are.
Damon on the other hand, was difficult to connect to. His perspective is filled with angst, as he was taking drugs the night his girlfriend died, so he has trouble recollecting his memories. Amongst all the guilt, confusion and angst are sexual thoughts about Ashlee which were really weird to read about as they are intermixed with his darker emotions. Damon also obsesses about “The Game” a lot which he and his friends play in the woods, and we constantly hear about it throughout the book.
The Killing Woods explores some of the darker parts of life, like murder, suicide, psychological trauma, drug abuse and sex, so it’s definitely not for younger readers or the faint hearted. I think the book could do with a bit of tightening up, and the author’s note at the end admits that she first created the forest and the rest came after it. This shows in the story, it’s pulled off in an inconsistent, repetitive manner with an unlikable male character.
Thank you to Scholastic Australia & Chicken House for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review!
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Reminder: This is a scheduled post. I am currently on hiatus and will be replying to comments upon my return on January 12.