, February 2016
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Would you risk your life to save your best friend?
Julia did. When a paroled predator attacked Liv in the woods, Julia fought back and got caught. Liv ran, leaving Julia in the woods for a terrifying 48 hours that she remembers only in flashbacks. One year later, Liv seems bent on self-destruction, starving herself, doing drugs, and hooking up with a violent new boyfriend. A dead girl turns up in those same woods, and Julia’s memories resurface alongside clues unearthed by an ambitious reporter that link the girl to Julia’s abductor. As the devastating truth becomes clear, Julia realizes that after the woods was just the beginning.
Julia doesn’t know how to live her life after the woods.
She doesn’t want the attention, the weird looks, the flashbacks, or the nightmares. She doesn’t want to be afraid of trees or go to the therapist who wants her to act out what happened with dolls.
When her best friend was attacked as they ran through the forest late one afternoon, Julia acted instinctively, throwing herself in harm’s way so Liv could escape. Now, nearing a year later, the demons are back to haunt her. Yet something is off…but Julia can’t quite put her finger on what. Curious by nature, she takes it into her own hands to unravel the mystery.
As a girl who loves to run, this book scared the daylights out of me. The fear of being attacked while I’m out for a run is something that keeps me on my toes (great article on how to stay safe running alone here), but as I read, I realized After the Woods isn’t a story about what happened in the woods. It’s a story about growing up, growing out of friendships, and realizing others’ demons.
Some people respond to traumatic events by crawling inside themselves and refusing to talk about it. Julia deals with her abduction in a variation of this, but instead of closing herself off from it, she becomes borderline obsessed with getting to the bottom of her abductor’s motives. When Ana, another girl out jogging in the woods, turns up dead, Julia’s first instinct is to investigate.
I loved Julia’s narrative: she’s rightfully wary, slightly defensive, and sarcastic by nature, portraying the events and people around her with an arm’s length and a careful view. The few people she does decide to let close to her, including the local TV news anchor and Kellan, the cute boy whose dad was the head detective on her case, are the few she shares with, but she keeps her biggest suspicion close to her chest.
The writing was clever: Julia’s slow upacking of her memories of the woods brought flashbacks and conversations with Liv to help complete the picture. The anniversary of her attack forces Julia to revisit her memories and look at those around her in an entirely new way. It’s at this moment that she realizes the woods has changed her.
While the writing was beautiful and the plot done well, I felt like I was missing things, especially how View Spoiler »Liv connected back to Julia’s abductor before the attack « Hide Spoiler. I’m sure this connection was made, but even after going back in the pages to find the answer, I was still at a loss. This is the only drawback to Savage’s otherwise fantastic debut.
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