Farrar, Straus and Giroux
February 23, 2016
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Would you risk your life to save your best friend?
Julia did. When a paroled predator attacked Liv in the woods, Julia fought back and got caught. Liv ran, leaving Julia in the woods for a terrifying 48 hours that she remembers only in flashbacks. One year later, Liv seems bent on self-destruction, starving herself, doing drugs, and hooking up with a violent new boyfriend. A dead girl turns up in those same woods, and Julia’s memories resurface alongside clues unearthed by an ambitious reporter that link the girl to Julia’s abductor. As the devastating truth becomes clear, Julia realizes that after the woods was just the beginning.
The timeline of After the Woods seems like a fantastic choice. We start with Julia and Liv's run in the woods. The run that ends with Liv attacked, Julia trying to save her and Julia captured. Then we move forward to nearly a year later.
This way we skip over those forty eight hours Julia was in the woods - in the actual narration but not in how it affects Julia, Liv, their families, their town, and their friendship. Then having what actually happened to Julia during that time revealed in bits and pieces (some revealed to her and readers, some just to readers), kept my focus more on the now. Yes, what happened was important, but I was more concerned with the Julia of 'now,' a year later.
Julia's character was different than I would have thought she'd be, but the other characters are, as well. Julia's family setup is unique and the different characters roles in her life and the dynamics between the different characters really adds to the story.
Liv and Julia are both different after the woods so it can be hard to tell what is also a part of who they were before and what is a changes they incurred from what happened.
The more we learn about the characters, what happened in the woods, maybe why it happened, who and how everyone is now, the more questions and concerns are presented. Julia's way of coping - of needing facts and researching,is not what most (including her mother) would be comfortable with but it makes the novel more interesting and the revelations better.
After the Woods is full of damaged - some very much so - characters. Sometimes you know why, sometimes you think you know why, sometimes you partially know why but almost always, the full extent of things is unknown. Kim Savage does a great job with her characters; they're complex, unique, compelling, troubled, confused, even funny (really, when else have you read of someone using Kuru disease to get out of gym?), caring and kind. The characters, their secrets, their desires, their questions -- and the answers to some of them -- are what really make this book.
Julia and Liv may have been attacked in the woods, Liv may have gotten away while Julia did not, but that is truly only the start of After the Woods.
review copy received thanks to publisher, via NetGalley