Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
June 17, 2014
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In this new series told from multiple perspectives, teen members of a search and rescue team discover a dead body in the woods.April Henry's The Body in the Woods is the first in the Point Last Seen mystery series. In this first book, we meet Nick, Ruby and Alexis, three Portland high school students just beginning their volunteering with the Portland County Sheriff's Search and Rescue. They each have different reasons for joining but each is also very excited to be on their first search.
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.
This first book in April Henry’s Point Last Seen YA mystery series is full of riveting suspense, putting readers in the middle of harrowing rescues and crime scene investigations.
What was supposed to be looking for a missing man soon becomes something quite else when they find a dead body.
The Body in the Woods does a fantastic job of introducing readers not only to the three main characters, but also to the world of SAR and their duties. At the same time, I'm hoping that the characters will feel more real and full in the second book. Each of them, Nick, Alexis and Ruby had a main something that made them unique. For Nick it was his almost fixation with his father who died in Iraq and wanting to be a hero himself; Ruby seems to have Asperger's, though it's never called such; Alexis is dealing with both her mother's mental illness and economic issues.
They have interesting back stories but it's the execution that makes it too much. Nick felt much younger than sixteen almost all of the time. At times it felt he was just ignored by his mother and brother and that was what led to his need to be the big hero guy. But it was so much his focus (with exaggerating, making his part bigger and more than reality) that it felt like something more - something someone should have noticed.
Ruby is the different one, the odd one. Her parents seem aware of her being different as does Ruby. We're given multiple examples of how Ruby is not quite like everyone else (her inability to interact well socially, her odd interests) and make others think she's strange. Problem is, we only get glimpses beyond the 'this is why Ruby's different' so readers are left thinking she's kind of annoying, as characters do. There is something there, though, and I hope we can see more of who she is. Interestingly, we know Ruby's aware of the autism spectrum (which Asperger's is on).
Alexis was probably the character I liked most. Her story (she is more parent than child to her mother who's mentally ill but refuses to take medication) was not something new. Yet, we seemed to get more personality and individuality from her. Things seem to wrap up rather neatly for her, but I am curious to see where the next book(s) will take hr character.
The premise of The Body in the Woods is a great one - teens working with SAR; solving a murder - but it was not all I had hoped for in its execution. The way we are presented with multiple, possible suspects early on, then given reasons to suspect nearly all of them as the story progresses was good. I liked not only not knowing who the responsible party was, while also knowing who the (seeming) possibilities were.
This is a book that may be enjoyed by middle school age readers than by those older. There is murder and some older (YA) content but the novel feels younger. It is a fast read with a good mystery.
I will read the second book in the series because the series' premise has my interest piqued and I would like to see if the characters can feel more like people and less like they're fitting into a role.
Another book you may also enjoy: The Cellar by Natasha Preston
thank you to the publisher for my copy, via NetGalley, to review