Title: The Killing Woods
Author: Lucy Christopher
Publisher: Chicken House/Scholastic
Pub. Date: January 7, 2014
Genre: Young Adult
Rec. Age Level: 14+
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Something went terribly wrong the night Emily’s father emerged from the forest with a dead girl in his arms. An emotionally scarred ex-soldier with PTSD, Emily doesn’t believe her father would have killed Ashlee Parker, even if he was prone to flashbacks to the day he accidentally killed a young civilian overseas. Desperate to exonerate her father, Emily searches for answers. Her path repeatedly crosses with Damon, Ashlee’s ex-boyfriend and the two are, inexplicably, drawn to one another… by anger, by grief, by an unexpected attraction. Even as Damon starts to wonder if Emily is right, that her father might not have been the murderer, he still hides the truth of the “Game” he and his friends played in woods. The Game Ashlee was a part of the night she died. As time runs out, Emily and Damon begin to uncover surprising truths about Ashlee… and her death.
Whoa, this book is intense. Lucy Christopher is extremely skilled at slowly building a novel’s action to create a powerful and emotional climax. Though THE KILLING WOODS starts slow, readers will be quickly hooked as they try to fit together the events leading to Ashlee’s death.
I was really curious about how the relationship between Emily and Damon was going to work out. It definitely has the potential to be awkward and unrealistic: Boy’s girlfriend dies and he suddenly falls for likely murderer’s daughter? That’s the impression I got from the summary description, but that’s not really how things pan out in the book. In the book, it’s actually quite easy to understand how Emily and Damon could be drawn to one another given the emotional events of the book.
THE KILLING WOODS is the second book I’ve read this month that focuses on father’s suffering from PTSD, the first novel being Laurie Halse Anderson’s THE IMPOSSIBLE KNIFE OF MEMORY. I found it interesting to compare the two novels. In THE KILLING WOODS, Emily has her mother to lean on as her father struggles with PTSD. Her father withdraws into himself, is often scared, and spends much of his time alone in a bunker in the forest. In TIKoM, the main character, Hayley, must take care of her father alone and he reacts to his PTSD very differently, self-medicating with drugs and alcohol and often lashing out with anger. In both books, those with PTSD often self-harm and carry massive amounts of guilt and the daughters in each book feel that they must remain strong, are protective, and feel they must be the ones to fix their fathers’ problems. I feel that the similarities and differences between the PTSD and effects in each book were very telling. Though PTSD can affect sufferers in different ways, there are definite similarities between the effects PTSD can have on families. There’s much that can be said about these similarities, but I especially like that it means those who feel trapped and scared by the effects are not alone. These books show kids that they are not alone… that there are others out there who feel scared like they do – like Emily and Haley do.
I also feel that I should mention that I’m not a fan of this novel’s summary description. In some parts, I feel like it focuses on things that aren’t really that important to the story and, in other places, it feels like it emphasizes important things but in the wrong way. It’s hard to explain, but this book is much better than I think the description makes it out to be. Or just… different. For this one, check out some reviews instead of basing your interest solely on the jacket description.
Don’t forget to check out author Lucy Christopher’s guest post here at The Hiding Spot and enter to win a signed copy of THE KILLING WOODS!