Alexis, Nick and Ruby are three very different teens. Alexis doesn’t want anyone to know about her mother’s mental struggles; Nick needs to prove his worthiness to his dead father; and Ruby wishes that she could be a little more “normal” and make some friends. Their stories converge when they each volunteer for Portland Search and Rescue.
While searching for a missing autistic man, Alexis sees something disturbing: it’s the body of a teenage girl. The three teens don’t agree with Detective Harriman’s assessment of the situation, that this is an isolated incident. Together they try to piece together the puzzle of the recent deaths of a few girls even though they don’t seem to have any connection. But once they think they could be facing a possible serial killer, they have to convince the adults in charge to act before it’s too late.
So?: Such a great premise for a series! I love mysteries, and combining that genre with YA allows for some wonderful storytelling. The problem here is that the mystery, which is well-thought out and interesting, is overshadowed by dull characters. So much of the book is describing, explaining and defining the three teens. The story would have flowed more smoothly and been much better if those characterizations had been told alongside the mystery.
And in that vein, there was way too much people-building in general; too much detail regarding bit players is just that: too much. While good mysteries can be a little more difficult to write than regular fiction, too many red herrings are annoying and can be like the boy who cried wolf. This book errs on the side of over-describing the characters. It’s all visual, too; we don’t know any of these characters any more than we would have without the descriptions. I am sure it is done so you don’t know who is important (ergo you can’t guess who might be the killer); however, I think there’s a way to do that without making the reader feel inundated with information.
Bottom Line?: I would have loved to have met three characters that I wanted to follow into all of their adventures. Maybe the author will focus on the story more in the next installment and let us get to know the characters a bit more organically. I may not be on that ride-along, though.
The Body in the Woods by April Henry was published June 17, 2014 by Henry Holt & Co. Books for Young Readers. A free copy of this book was given to Ink and Page in return for an honest review. Big thanks to NetGalley, the Publisher and the Author.
Genre: Young Adult Fiction Contemporary Mystery Thriller
Ages: 13 and up