Review: What She Found in the Woods

What She Found in the Woods by Josephine Angelini | Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire | Publication Date: 01 Dec 2020 | Genre: Mystery-Thriller; YA | Find it on: Goodreads

Magda can’t remember the details of most of the last year. After a scandal that destroys her friends’ group and leaves her in an institution, Magda isn’t sure she wants to remember the details anyway. All she knows is that she’s recorded everything in her journal. And she will never write in it again.

But after she meets a strange, charming boy in the woods at her grandparents’ summer house, Magda starts to feel again. And that’s dangerous. Because people are ending up dead. Just like last time…

Angelini has written a well-crafted YA thriller. There’s drama, privileged rich kids you really can’t feel sorry for, secrets, and a vibrant world inside the dense woods that makes it easy to see how someone could confuse what happens in the woods and out of them as two different worlds.

I was a bit torn on a rating for this one, because it’s a good book, the past and present narration helps keep the pace from slowing down, and I was interested in what was happening from beginning to end. Unfortunately, there are two sticking points for me that I found a bit troubling.

Being mentally ill (or having a diagnosis or being on meds) does not make you an automatic villain or criminal suspect. People can be bad, manipulative people without needing to justify that with an illness. Throughout the book mental illness was not handled with nuance to bring awareness. It was a plot point. Various elements of selective mutism, PTSD, and schizophrenia (which sometimes seemed like it was confused with dissociative identity disorder) were used to add twists to the plots and move the story along, but weren’t presented in their complex reality.

This was also true with narcotics addictions. Addiction is another linchpin of this plot, but the characters with addictions are also not given the nuanced treatment of real humans struggling through addiction and recovery and relapse. In fact, they bordered on stereotypical.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Read it? Disagree?  Let’s talk in the comments!

*I received a galley of this book for review purposes*

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