Are the woods behind St. Bede’s Academy really haunted, or does bad stuff just happen there? When Calista Wood, a new student, arrives midway through her junior year, St. Bede’s feels like a normal school . . . until she discovers that a girl had disappeared a couple of months earlier. Some kids think she ran away, others think she was murdered, but it’s only when Cally starts digging around that she finds the startling truth.
Watch as Cally enters a world of privilege, weekend-long parties, high school romances, and . . . well-kept secrets. This page-turner will appeal to teens looking for a fast-paced thriller. Written in a voice at once gripping and crystal clear, debut novelist, McCormick Templeman, will take readers on a twisting and turning journey as only a “new girl” can experience.
Oh, evil boarding schools. How I love you. I even have a collection on my Kindle called Evil Boarding Schools. It’s one of my favorite sub-genres of books. So needless to say when The Little Woods popped up on Netgalley I nearly knocked myself unconscious hitting the request button.
As far as the protagonist, I liked Cally a lot. She’s very smart but she’s also one of the biggest slackers around, which kind of reminds me of someone I know very well (and see when I look in the mirror). Yes, Cally is a girl after my own procrastinating and unambitious heart. And while she occasionally makes a dumb choice about stuff like boys or, like, not reporting things to the police that really should be reported to the police, I felt like I could relate to her on most levels. She’s her own person and not a sheeple. And she’s totally disinterested in her appearance, choosing Sex Pistols t-shirts over fancypants dresses, which was a welcome change from all of the fancy dress wearing silky haired vixens in YA.
The Little Woods has an extensive cast of supporting characters. It was so extensive that at times I had to stop reading and think about who it was who was being spoken to or referenced. I don’t think that was a failure with the writing, I just think that it was a lot to keep straight. Most if not all of the characters Templeman creates play a role, so it wasn’t superfluous page-padding on the part of the author. And really, a book that takes place at a school is most likely going to have lots of people. Some of these characters I loved – Sophie and Jack, for example. And my absolute favorite, Chelsea Vetiver, who I’m not entirely sure you’re really supposed to like but she’s just such a snarky asshat I wanted to be her best friend. And she’s always referred to by her first and last name, which is cool. There were characters I was lukewarm on – Noel and Alex, Pigeon and Helen (though she wavered between lukewarm and dislike). And then there were characters who I downright hated, like Reilly and Freddy. A good mix, I thought. Not a bunch of goody two-shoes, but not a bunch of criminals and douchebags either. It’s easy to see why Cally had a problem knowing who to trust because it seemed like everyone had something to hide.
It took a while for the book to really ramp up for me, but once things got rolling I was engrossed. As I said earlier, I love creepy boarding schools. I also love creepy woods, puzzles, and girl detectives and this book had all of the above. It was a really good mystery that kept me guessing. I did at one point suspect I knew the identity of the killer, but it was mostly a guess and the person was far from the only suspect. I also thought it was interesting that Cally’s sister had basically become an urban legend at the school, and Cally chooses to hide the fact that it was her sibling who disappeared all those years ago. Interesting choice and I’m not really sure why she made it.
The only thing I didn’t really care for was the love triangle. That’s partially because I think I’ve reached the point of love-triangle burnout and partially because Cally had absolutely zero chemistry with one of the two guys involved and honestly didn’t even seem to really like him all that much, so while he was a “safe” pick because she had nothing invested in him and thus he couldn’t hurt her, I was kind of like meh on the whole thing. And toward the end of the book things just got awkward when a fourth, fifth, and sixth person got into the mix (love hextangle? sounds weird!).
A really good standalone mystery.