The Woods Are Always Watching by Stephanie Perkins (240 pages)
Neena and Josie Fear They’ll Drift Apart When the Fall Semester Starts
Best friends Neena and Josie, two recent high school graduates from North Carolina, just wanted to get away together one last time before Neena leaves for college on the West Coast. With some borrowed hiking gear and sketchy tips from Josie’s older brother, the two friends decide to set off to the Pisgah National Forest for some peaceful time for just the two of them in nature. What they don’t expect is how difficult the trip will be in more ways than one.
Neena and Josie are both dealing with their own hardships. As the child of Indian immigrants, Neena has felt pressure to perform in school her entire life and she doesn’t see that pressure lessening anytime soon.. Josie, on the other hand, is still mourning the sudden loss of her father and the ripples that resonated through her family. With their last summer before college nearing an end, the girls just desperately want something to cement their friendship together. And that’s what they get, but not in the way they had planned.
The Woods Are Always Watching Is A Gripping Trip of YA Horror
It’s hard to talk too much about the details of this book without giving too much away, but the early parts are predictable but useful. Because both girls are carrying a lot of stress, they naturally take that tension out on each other. They snap at each other and their fuses run short which is only exacerbated by the fact that neither one of them has any idea what they’re doing out in the woods. While the two girls bicker, the reader can start to sense an ominous and foreboding mood which perfectly primes us for the twists and terror to come. When Josie finds herself in real (and gruesome) danger, Neena has to leave her to find help. When I realized how many pages were still left at this point, I was really concerned for these girls, and for good reason.
The Bottom Line: 3/5 Brookie Stars
This felt like two totally different books to me. The first third is pretty slow, though not entirely unenjoyable. I enjoyed spending time with Neena and Josie and their bickering was pretty relatable; we’ve all spent too much time with someone we love and found ourselves in a similar situation. The second half moves much more quickly; it was hard to put this down once it got going! Perkins creates that same threatening atmosphere we’re used to seeing in horror movies so we’re not surprised when danger arrives, but I was surprised by the extent of the danger. This book definitely isn’t for the faint of heart as it doesn’t shy away from the gore, something I didn’t expect but also didn’t feel too gratuitous given the circumstances. So read this one with caution and maybe have something lighter lined up for when you finish because The Woods Are Always Watching is a wild ride.
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Rachel Gomes is a 30-something high school English teacher who lives with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband and their son. Rachel is a voracious reader who loves to learn and has her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction. She’s happiest listening to podcasts and talking to friends about the latest news in nerd culture.
Favourite book: Don’t make me choose between A Song of Ice and Fire and Harry Potter
Favourite brunch spot: The Farmer’s Table