Book Review: The Killing Woods

The Killing Woods
Published By: Chicken House 
Publication Date: January 7, 2014
Page Count: 369
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via NetGalley
Audience: Young Adult - Mystery, Thriller

The Killing Woods has been a long time coming, and it was worth the wait. As with Lucy Christopher’s Stolen, all is not as it seems, and as the story unfolds, it is hard to know what to believe. That could be frustrating for some, but I thought it was deeply realistic. We often start with a preconceived idea of something and a judgement, and then as more evidence comes to light, the black and white areas become more gray, and finally, who knows what to believe until something extremely compelling comes to light. This is the story of The Killing Woods.

Emily knows her dad isn’t fine. He used to be, but then he experienced something horrific during a tour of duty in Afghanistan and the man who came back was very different from who he used to be. He suffers nightmares, and breaks with reality, and Emily fears she will never get her dad back. So she clings to what they used to share, a love of the woodland behind their house. The sights, sounds and smells of the wood bring them both comfort, her during walks, him as he hides from his mental demons in an abandoned bunker. But the woods turn into something else after her father returns from them one stormy night, carrying the body of a dead girl. From there out, the sounds are strange howls, the smells are of death, and killers could be just out of sight. The writing about the woods is beautiful; it is just as breathtaking as how Lucy wrote about the Australian outback in Stolen.

Emily seems to be the only one who believes her dad didn’t kill the girl, as even he thinks he did. But she knows he imagines horrific things, and can’t resolve the two people he seems to be. She clings to her beliefs as the town around her vilifies her father, shuns her and her mother descends into an alcoholic daze. I loved how Emily’s resolve was gradually broken down, until even she wasn’t sure of anything. She starts to spend a lot of time thinking about Damon, the dead girl’s boyfriend, who she seems to have a lot in common with. Neither know exactly what happened, and each fear what really happened.

Damon is a really interesting character. He was there in the woods the night his girlfriend died, but he doesn’t know what happened. All he can remember is that they were playing a game, high on drugs, and from there the memories fade. The nature of The Game is kept from us for a long time, and part of the fun for me was guessing what it involved. I really appreciated the pacing of the reveals about it through the book; just as I felt I might start to get frustrated, another little crumb was thrown my way, giving me more food for thought and a new angle to consider.

The Killing Woods would be a great recommendation for anyone who is a fan of Maggie Stiefvater’s writing. Both authors share a talent for unhurried and beautiful description which is deeply satisfying to read, alongside a well crafted plot which brings moments of crescendo amid quiet beauty.

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?


  1. Ok you had me at the mention of Maggie Stiefvater! I'm all over this one! Great review!

  2. You won't regret it. Also try Stolen by LC - it will mess with your head in the most delightful way!


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