I received this book for free (hey, thanks!) in exchange for an honest review. I promise that this does NOT affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. For real.The Woods Are Always Watching by Stephanie Perkins
Genres: Young Adult, Horror
Published by Penguin Random House on August 31st 2021
Also by this author: Anna and the French Kiss, Lola and the Boy Next Door, Isla and the Happily Ever After, My True Love Gave To Me, Summer Days & Summer Nights, There's Someone Inside Your House
Format: eARC (304 pages) • Source: Publisher
Goodreads • Amazon • Barnes & Noble
Stephanie Perkins returns with another blood-chilling contemporary horror novel, the perfect companion to her New York Times bestseller There’s Someone Inside Your House, soon to be a Netflix feature.
A traditional backwoods horror story set–first page to last–in the woods of the Pisgah National Forest in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Two girls go backpacking in the woods. Things go very wrong.
And, then, their paths collide with a serial killer.
I enjoyed Perkins’ first foray into contemporary horror with THERE’S SOMEONE INSIDE YOUR HOUSE. It felt a little closer to a mystery/thriller for me, which is probably why it worked. The whole “teen thrasher movie” vibe was fun and I was eager to read her next. After reading this, I am definitely ready for her to get back into contemporary romance.
The story centers around Meena and Josie, two best friends who decide to take a 20 mile backpacking trip in the woods before one of them leaves for college in California. The first half of the book is just them bickering and having issues as they hike, try to set up camp, and sleep in the woods. The story picks up a lot and was pretty addicting in the second half.
Josie falls and injures herself, which forces the two of them to separate while Meena runs to get help. They’re a full day into their journey at this point so she has quite a ways to go. When they encounter some less-than-helpful fellow “hikers” in the forest, things get worse for them. This was definitely more horror than thriller, with some pretty terrible gore happening. I should have seen it coming obviously but it just felt yuckier than her previous horror novel.
I didn’t really enjoy that this was mostly two girls walking through the woods and fighting for the first half – it was a little boring and I missed having a full cast of characters like I would usually read about. The ending was heavily foreshadowed, actually, but was very unrealistic and odd. I didn’t DISLIKE it but it was definitely unbelievable. Overall, not my favorite of her two horror books. I will definitely not ever go for an overnight camping trip in the woods either.
I received this book for free (hey, thanks!) in exchange for an honest review. I promise that this does NOT affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. For real.They'll Never Catch Us by Jessica Goodman
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Published by Penguin Random House on July 27th 2021
Also by this author: They Wish They Were Us
Format: eARC (284 pages) • Source: Publisher
Goodreads • Amazon • Barnes & Noble
From rising star Jessica Goodman, author of They Wish They Were Us, comes a new fast-paced thriller about two sisters vying for the top spot on their cross-country team--the only way out of their stifling small town. But their dreams are suddenly thrown into peril when a new girl threatens to take away everything they've worked for... until she disappears.
Stella and Ellie Steckler are only a year apart, but their different personalities make their relationship complicated. Stella is single-minded, driven, and she keeps to herself. Cross-country running is her life and she won't let anything get in the way of being the best. Her sister Ellie is a talented runner too, but she also lets herself have fun. She has friends. She goes to parties. She has a life off the course.
The sisters do have one thing in common, though: the new girl, Mila Keene. Both Stecklers' lives are upended when Mila comes to town. Mila was the top runner on her team back home and at first, Ellie and Stella view her as a threat. But soon Ellie can't help but be drawn to her warm, charming personality. After her best friend moved away and her first boyfriend betrayed her, Ellie's been looking for a friend. In a moment of weakness, she even shares her darkest secret with Mila. For her part, Stella finds herself noticing the ways she and Mila are similar. Mila is smart and strong--she's someone Stella can finally connect with. As the two get closer, Stella becomes something she vowed she'd never be: distracted.
With regionals approaching and college scouts taking notice, the pressure is on. Each girl has their future on the line and they won't let friendships get in their way. But then, suddenly, Mila goes out on a training run and never returns. No one knows what happened, but all eyes are on the Steckler sisters.
I enjoyed Goodman’s first mystery/thriller but it wasn’t quite as twisty as I expected – very contemporary mixed with a bit of mystery. The concept of this one definitely intrigued me so I was ready to give it a shot! It ended up being the same style, which I actually appreciated here (especially after finishing the THE WOODS ARE ALWAYS WATCHING – that was very gory horror and I needed a light mystery/thriller next!).
The Steckler sisters are known for being intense and even scary. Stella, the older sister, is a super talented runner who is known for this mysterious “incident” with another runner where she apparently lost her cool. Ellie is in her sister’s shadow – she runs but not quite as fast as her sister. The two of them have plenty of secrets (like how Ellie spent her summer with Noah, a guy on their cross country team) – so when the new girl in town, who happens to be faster than both of them, goes missing, they’re prime suspects. It doesn’t help that their picturesque NY town was nicknamed Deadwood due to multiple cross country girls getting murdered in the woods years back. Did the Stecklers have something to do with Mila’s disappearance, or is the murderer back in town?
I’m not a runner and cannot at all relate to that lifestyle. I’m the least competitive person I know. The Steckler sisters were on a whole new level of fierce and I totally appreciated that about them – it was pretty fascinating to read about.
The book did a really great job of making me care about Mila, even though she was a new girl that went missing pretty quickly. She had a ton of personality right off the bat; I was sincerely rooting for her to be found alive. I loved seeing how the team rallied around each other (and at times, not so much) to try to get to the bottom of what happened. New friendships were born and quite a few seemed to end as well.
I thought I had it figured out and Goodman managed to veer off course in a direction I didn’t expect – I really appreciated that! I think I like this book a touch more than her debut but I can tell you this: I’m even more intrigued to read what she comes out with next!