I am super excited to be part of this Book Blog Tour – so thanks to author Katya de Becerra and blog-tour-host Karlita of Tale Out Loud for letting a new book blogger be a part of this! I was given a free e-ARC in exchange for a honest review.
Genre: Dark contemporary fantasy (genre-bending) Age Range: YA Star rating:4/5 Series: Standalone
What the Woods Keep is the stunning debut of Katya de Becerra, who combines mystery, science fiction, and dark fantasy in a twisty story that will keep you mesmerised right up to the final page.
On her eighteenth birthday, Hayden inherits her childhood home―on the condition that she uncover its dark secrets.
Hayden tried to put the past behind her, and it worked. She’s getting ready for college, living in a Brooklyn apartment, and hanging out with her best friend and roommate Del. But now it’s all catching up with her: her mother’s mysterious disappearance a decade before, her father’s outlandish theories about a lost supernatural race, and Hayden’s own dark dreams of strange symbols and rituals in the Colorado woods where she grew up.
As soon as Hayden arrives at her hometown, her friend Del in tow, it begins: Neighbours whisper secrets about Hayden’s mother; the boy next door is now all grown-up in a very distracting way; and Hayden feels the trees calling to her. And among them, deep in the woods, Hayden will discover something incredible―something that threatens reality itself.
Katya De Becerra’s debut is an engrossing, atmospheric, and creepy mystery/thriller/paranormal fantasy. And yes – it is an impossible book to classify (I had to ask what the official designations were).
The atmosphere of this book is electrifying. Most reviews I’ve seen mention it – and those of you following the blog tour/this book are probably rolling your eyes at YET another mention of the atmosphere, but it should not be understated.
It’s creepy and uneasy and mystical and slightly off. You read it knowing something’s wrong – very, very, very wrong – but never quite sure what. The location (the fictional town of Promise, Colarado) gets under your skin with its eerie woods, thick mist and severe weather.
This setting plays perfectly into the mystery sucking you in and in. I flicked through the pages rapidly, wanting to know more and hoping no one I loved was going to get badly injured (I was reading on my kindle at an average of a percent a minute).
Hayden is a walking contradiction of being scientific and logical, and yet superstitious all at the same time. She’s quirky, with physics reference coming out her ears (and geek me loved it). The narration pulls you into her mind, which is slightly unsettling as she’s a bit unsettled and doesn’t always feel like the most reliable narrator – not in a I’m-keeping-secrets kinda way, but in a I-can’t-quite-remember-it-all-and-that’s-worrying-me way.
Shannon is not your typical love interest as he a) isn’t physically seen for a while and b) you can never know if you can trust him. Hayden doesn’t know how much he knows (not to mention, there’s a ton of secrets she discovering) or what his part in the whole mystery is.
By far, however, Del was my favourite. She’s bold and confident and an amazing friend. I mean, who decides to go to their flatmate’s abandoned childhood home and stays despite the creepiness? I want a flatmate like that. Hayden and Del’s friendship is THE most important relationship in this book and it’s great to see a positive, empowering female relationship taking centre stage.
The writing was addictive – I read most of the book in one sitting (sprawling). It pulled me through this whirl-wind mystery but a few phrases really stuck out to me that I stopped and noted them down.
‘…we marinate in the cramped waiting space…’
‘…the drizzle envelops my face like a thin veil…’
Katya De Becerra manages to make very ordinary things (waiting at a stuffy airport gate and drizzle) feel slightly mystical and different. Her writing is really what builds the atmosphere and nagging feeling that something is wrong here – even if you can’t quite put your finger on it.
If I have one criticism of this book, it was that the ending went so fast (or was that just me sucked in?) that I had a bit of trouble following it. Even if you really want to just race through, slow down and savour the ending so you can fully appreciate and absorb how all these dangling threads come together and resolve.
I’ve never been to USA, but if (when!) I go, WHAT THE WOODS KEEP has scared me off heading towards any woods in Colorado. I’m sure the woods there are lovely, but I’m not risking it.
Interested to read WHAT THE WOODS KEEP for yourself?
Add it on Goodreads here and then buy yourself a copy from the retailers below or order at your local library. Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway here.
US retailers: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Book Depository (good for international), Books-a-Million, IndieBound
UK retailers (for my fellow Brits): Waterstones, Amazon, Foyles
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