BOOK REPORT for The Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher



Cover Story: Ten Thirteen
BFF Charm: Meh
Swoonworthy Scale:3
Talky Talk:Play By Play
Bonus Factor: Mystery
Relationship Status: No Hard Feelings


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Killing Woods

Cover Story: Ten Thirteen

Ten Thirteen is the name of the production company founded by Chris Carter, and I immediately thought of it when I saw this artwork. Not so much because it reminds me of The X-Files (although it's got the requisite mysterious fog) but rather, because it looks like something I could make with a stock photo and very basic Photoshop skills, then exclaim, "I made this!"

Seriously, Scholastic, at least pretend to try.

The Deal:

After Emily Shepherd's father was discharged from the military for accidentally killing a civilian, he came home carrying nothing but despair. When he found a hidden bunker in Darkwood, the forest bordering their house, he made it his refuge, but it did nothing to lighten his burden of depression. Jon Shepherd's PTSD was a weight that neither Emily nor her mother could help shoulder, and it dragged him further and further away from the man he used to be.

Then one night, he came home bearing something new: the body of Ashlee Parker, one of Emily's classmates. With no other plausible suspects to blame, Jon Shepherd faces a swift conviction unless Emily can unearth the truth about what happened that night in Darkwood. And the only person with the key to unlock those secrets is Ashlee's boyfriend, Damon Hilary, who is determined to make the Shepherd family pay.

BFF Charm: Meh 
I really admired Emily's fierce belief in her father and her determination to clear his name, but her intense devotion to solving the mystery didn't leave much room for personality. Describing her is like an exercise in polite conversation: She seems like such a nice and thoughtful girl! Her connection to Darkwood definitely shaded in some areas of her psyche, and it's clear that she's got a lot of spirit. Unfortunately, all of it was funneled into her purpose rather than her character.

Swoonworthy Scale: 3

Having lost his father the year before, Damon has the whole "tragic past" thing going for him, and he's also the hottest boy in school. So I can see why Emily is drawn to him. However, he spends most of the story rightfully obsessing over his dead girlfriend, and while his lust certainly increases his authenticity as a teenage boy, it doesn't do much in the romance department. He and Emily share a common grief, but it never deepened into a compelling connection that I could feel in my bones (or my lady parts).

Talky Talk:
 Play By Play

The chapters alternate between Emily and Damon's perspectives, and the contrast between their voices is exceptionally clear. Thanks to Lucy Christopher's robust expression of their individual tones, I didn't need the character name at the top of the page or the change in typeface to tell me whether I was in the mind of a girl or a boy. The stream of consciousness style of Emily and Damon's narratives transported me directly into their brains, but I soon found myself yearning for a mental editor. Sure, there's lots of thoughts happening, but there's not much action, and intense angst isn't a substitute for plot development. The sheer volume of emotional details slows the story down to a snail's pace, taking the "thrill" out of thriller.

Bonus Factor:
I always relish the chance to whip out my magnifying glass, and the case of Ashlee Parker's death is tantalizingly juicy. Having access to both Emily and Damon's insights gives the reader an advantage, but it's not necessarily a benefit, since the puzzle is far too easy to put together. 

Casting Call:
think this book is set in Australia? Honestly, I'm not sure, but the characters sound Australian, and Lucy Christopher's first book was set in Australia, and most importantly, I'm dying for an excuse to cast actors from my favorite Australian show, Dance Academy.
Xenia Goodwin as Emily

Tim Pocock as Damon 

Relationship Status: No Hard Feelings

Book, you seemed like a hot date, and I was really hoping you would show me a good time. Maybe my expectations were too high? Instead of surprising me, you kinda bored me, and our hours of conversation never really led anywhere. The only thing about you that I didn't predict was your abrupt turn into after-school-special territory, which definitely nixed any chance of a good-night kiss. You're a perfectly nice book, and I wish you the best, but I just don't see a future for us.

The Killing Woods is available now.