The Killing Woods
by Lucy Christopher
Category: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller
Publisher: Chicken House Ltd
Release Date: Oct. 3, 2013
Page Count: 369
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.
A new psychological thriller from the award-winning and bestselling author of STOLEN and FLYAWAY.
Review: I was not sure how I would feel about this novel when I first began reading it. Honestly, when I saw it on the shelf at the library I initially grabbed it just because of the title, and I did not have any prior knowledge of the book or the author at all. Still, it seemed intriguing to me. I would not normally read something that falls under "thriller" (especially since I can't watch scary movies without freaking out), but I decided to give it a shot. Sometimes it's nice to step out of one's comfort zone when it comes to reading, right?
Honestly, I really, really liked this novel. I have read through some other reviews on Goodreads, and some people have pointed out negatives (in their opinion) that I did not actually notice. Perhaps it is because I am an amateur with thriller novels, but I found it very intense and believable. I did not know what was going to happen, or what had actually happened, and I certainly did not know how everything was going to end. I feel like that is one of the important things about reading a mystery. I would not want everything to just be thrown out there and have no suspense or surprise.
I was drawn into the story from the very beginning. When the main character starts off the book by watching her father carry the dead body of a schoolmate into her house, things get real pretty quickly. Emily is thrown into a whirl wind of trying to figure out what really happened, protect her father who is charged with murder (who also struggles with PTSD), and also deal with everyone at school talking about her and her family because they believe her father is a murderer. It seems like it would have been really easy for Emily to give in and believe the whole thing too, but instead she stays sure that her father did not do anything wrong, and continues to defend him when someone says something negative about the man.
The other main character in the novel is Damon, who just lost his girlfriend. AKA, the dead girl brought out of the woods. While he is obviously torn up about the ordeal, he seems more bothered by the fact that he cannot remember the events of the night. He and some friends, including the dead girl, Ashlee, liked to play a "game" in the woods on full moon nights. These games had a lot to do with drinking, doing drugs, and then running around the woods and trying to steal dog collars from one another's necks. I guess they live in a town where there isn't much to do for fun? Nonetheless, you can't help but feel for Damon. He fears that he did something horrible to the girl he cared about, but he can't remember anything about the night.
Christopher chose to write the novel in alternating first person POV, which was something that I really enjoyed. The first narrator was Emily; her parts of the story were very thought out and grammatically correct. It reflected her character quite well, wanting to put the pieces together and prove her father's innocence. The second narrator is Damon, and his parts of the story are much rougher and contain grammar flaws, much like a teenage boy might actually talk. I liked this a lot, and I also liked being able to see both of their thoughts and feelings as we went through the story.
Christopher was also very good at showing rather than telling, which I believe is very important with novels like this. (Well, I'm not a thriller expert, but I feel like it would be the same with science fiction or fantasy.). Instead of explaining everything that happens and that is around, Christopher uses vivid imagery through the eyes of her main characters. Sure, there were some flaws in the story, a couple of parts that were not completely believable, but I feel like that happens with most books. Besides, it is fiction, so we go into it knowing that some of it might not be likely.
Ultimately, I was pretty surprised by the ending of the book. Well, not the very end, but the finding out about what really happened. There came a point towards the end when I was really nervous. You know the feeling when you become close to the character and worry for them when they are in danger, even if they are not real and you cannot do anything to help them? I was on the edge of my seat through part of it, and was relieved when things ended up mostly okay. Honestly, I believe that anyone who enjoys thrillers would enjoy reading this novel. I was intrigued through the majority of the book, and really enjoyed the characterization of the main characters.