Saturday, February 6, 2016

Book Review: After the Woods by Kim Savage

I had the opportunity to read a digital-ARC of this book from NetGalley. This is an exciting YA Mystery/Thriller that had me engaged throughout. I really enjoyed reading this book.
The plot events of this novel take place a year after the attack on Julia Spunk occurred. Julia and her friend, Liv Lapin, were running in the woods together in the late afternoon. Liv ran ahead, and was attacked by a paroled predator, Donald Jessup. Julia jumped into the fray to fight off Jessup. Liv was able to free herself and run away. But Julia's ankle was broken and she wound up being abducted. Julia managed to escape her tormentor, and two days later was rescued by a passing bicyclist. After Jessup was arrested, he committed suicide in jail.
The anniversary of this attack is nearing, and Julia is still having trouble coming to grips with what has happened. A year of psychological therapy, memory flashbacks and panic attacks have only raised more questions. Everyone around Julia wants her to let it go and begin healing, except an ambitious local news anchor, Paula Papademetriou.
The families of these two teenagers have worked hard to keep the news media at arms length throughout this ordeal. But now the body of another young woman has been found in the woods, and this has reopened the investigations and speculations about Donald Jessup and whether or not the parole authorities were negligent in keeping track of him. Papademetriou catches up with Julia and befriends her.
As Julia begins to learn more information from this reporter and starts to become more involved in the research into what exactly happened, she becomes aware that there's more to the situation than what meets the eye. She learns a great deal about friendship, love, and honesty.
The characters in this novel are very well developed. Even though the main events of the book take place before the opening chapters, the revelations and emotions are fresh. We see events from Julia's point of view, and we learn devastating things right along with her. You feel the pressure of the personalities of this bedroom community of Boston: middle-class single parents trying to make ends meet, police detectives doing their best despite being part of a broken system, and a local television personality with dreams of being an important, relevant journalist with a national following.
There is quite a bit that is relevant for readers of young adult fiction. We are faced with teenagers dealing with emotionally abusive parents, fascination with violent, interactive video games, anorexia, domestic violence, and cutting. Kim Savage did a great job of combining all of those elements with romance and a look at the savage news media when a violent crime occurs.
This book is appropriate for mature readers in middle school and high school.
Hardcover, 320 pages
Expected publication: February 23rd 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

1 comment:

  1. Great review, Jana! I finished this book last night - wow! It was really absorbing, fresh, and exciting. I totally agree with your assessment of the characters. They were certainly well-developed and compelling. But what I think I loved most was how smart it sounded. Julia is a sharp young woman and her voice reflects her intellect and curiosity about learning. A great read!