Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Body in the Woods by April Henry

The Basics:
The Body in the Woods by April Henry
Book One in the Point Last Seen series
Published June 17, 2014
Source: Received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Why I picked up this book:

I liked the cover, and I thought it'd be nice to read something a little creepier for a change.


Alexis, Nick, and Ruby have very different backgrounds: Alexis has spent her life covering for her mom’s mental illness, Nick’s bravado hides his fear of not being good enough, and Ruby just wants to pursue her eccentric interests in a world that doesn’t understand her. When the three teens join Portland County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, they are teamed up to search for a autistic man lost in the woods. What they find instead is a dead body. In a friendship that will be forged in danger, fear and courage, the three team up to find the girl’s killer—before he can strike one of their own. 

My thoughts:

The Body in the Woods is a true YA book. It addresses some serious concepts like homelessness and mental illness, as well as featuring a murder mystery, but it doesn't really delve into any of it with great depth. On the one hand, it was refreshing to see these treated as normal (rather than abnormal), but with respect and acknowledging the difficulties (physical and emotional) that accompany these issues.

What I enjoyed most about this book were the two female main characters - Ruby and Alexis. These two young women face very different issues on the mental health spectrum. Ruby's tackling it as someone who views social interaction from a slightly different perspective. She's bright with parents pushing her away from her interests and her desire to fit aligns her with Alexis. Alexis wants to conceal her home life - her mother has, at the least, some very high highs and some very low lows, mixed with paranoia or delusions or something. Regardless of the exact diagnosis, it makes Alexis' life quite complicated as she has to parent her parent. Seeing the impact on her was, for me, the most emotional part of the book.

There's a third main character, Nick, whose father passed away while in the military and I had a harder time connecting with him.

The central mystery around the body in the woods is quite good. I enjoyed the sleuthing efforts of the kids. Nick and Ruby, in particular, have such an earnest desire to help by solving the crime.

In the end, I didn't feel there was too much push on some of the major issues that were raised, but instead we got a good look at the lives of some kids facing some not-uncommon issues. Plus a murder mystery. Probably good for a younger reader? I would have loved a bit more depth but I still enjoyed the read. 

Though the start of a series, it definitely worked (for me) as a standalone novel. Perhaps we'll get more of that push I wanted as the series develops - or maybe it'll be more like a modern Nancy Drew? No idea... I'm intrigued by the possibilities though.

Bottom line:

This is a great book for a young teen, or anyone who is a fan of books for that age group. Lots of issues for potential discussion (or book reports)!

4 stars
For fans of YA

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