Author: April Henry (Twitter)
Publisher: Henry Holt BYR
Publish Date: June 17, 2014
Genre: YA, Mystery
Alexis, Nick, and Ruby have very different backgrounds: Alexis has spent her life covering for her mom’s mental illness, Nick’s bravado hides his fear of not being good enough, and Ruby just wants to pursue her eccentric interests in a world that doesn’t understand her.When the three teens join Portland County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, they are teamed up to search for a autistic man lost in the woods. What they find instead is a dead body. In a friendship that will be forged in danger, fear, and courage, the three team up to find the girl’s killer—before he can strike one of their own.
Mysteries have this innate ability to draw you into a story, whether you're invested or not, if only to fully understand and glean the outcome of the circumstances in the end. The Body in the Woods is no exception, as our author, April Henry, sets up an engaging new mystery series in which we're given characters very much like ourselves, and a whodunit setup that's gripping from the get-go. We're thrust into the world of our characters quickly, and readers are coaxed along a bath to discover a killer with our protagonists. Chilling and driven, it's the type of novel that might very well leave you breathless.
In many ways, The Body in the Woods succeeded. Ms. Henry created a novel that plays out quickly and rather cinematically, making it all seem extremely tangible and honest. Furthermore, though I was certain I knew who the killer was in the first couple of chapters, I was surprised to find myself thrown for a loop in the end. Rather than giving us the obvious, the novel plays upon what we think are our investigative skills, preys on our emotions and switches things up at the end. In this way, I was pleasantly surprised - literally.
The Body in the Woods did, however, present a unique challenge to me, as well. The novel begins quickly, alternating points of view between Nick, Alexis and Ruby, all of whom are people we might know in our everyday lives. Unfortunately, however, because of the short chapters, I felt as though I was pulled too quickly from one point of view to the next, never really getting to see past the tropes of these characters that were set up. Furthermore, I struggled a bit with the dialogue between the characters at times. Ruby, for example, is a quirky girl that's fascinated with morbidity. Yet, I feel that might have worked better with subtle hints and undertones than blatant conversations with her parents about it. Alexis was the strongest of the three with her mentally ill mother, but I felt her mother was almost a bit cliche, as well. I think, perhaps, my biggest issue was that while this novel could have been extremely rich and complex, it ended up feeling a bit juvenile to me, and that let me down.
In terms of strengths though, it was incredibly fascinating that Ms. Henry offered us a sneak peek into a fourth point of view, as well - our killer. The Body in the Woods doesn't just give us the world through the eyes of the rescuers. Rather, it offers us the cold-blooded perspective of a murderer who must have his trophies and displays an insatiable bloodlust. That was a real strength to me, and it was definitely not something I expected to see in a novel like this. Should future books in the series feature such an element, I definitely think that will play to readers looking for more depth.
Overall, The Body in the Woods isn't without its flaws, but it was also an engaging and quick read. I'd love to read another book in the series to see if the quirks get sorted out and the story lines get a bit stronger. I give it a 3 out of 5, and I recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy a good mystery.
I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.