review

Review: What Lies in the Woods by Kate Alice Marshall

Summary: Naomi Shaw used to believe in magic. Twenty-two years ago, she and her two best friends, Cassidy and Olivia, spent the summer roaming the woods, imagining a world of ceremony and wonder. They called it the Goddess Game. The summer ended suddenly when Naomi was attacked. Miraculously, she survived her seventeen stab wounds and lived to identify the man who had hurt her. The girls’ testimony put away a serial killer, wanted for murdering six women. They were heroes.

And they were liars.

For decades, the friends have kept a secret worth killing for. But now Olivia wants to tell, and Naomi sets out to find out what really happened in the woods—no matter how dangerous the truth turns out to be.

Genre: thriller, mystery, horror
Rating: ★★★★

When I saw that What Lies in the Woods was a BookoftheMonth pick, I immediately added it to my box. The book is inspired by the Slenderman stabbing that happened in 2014, when two 12-year-old girls lured their friend into the woods and stabbed her 19 times to appease Slenderman so he would reward them by taking the girls to his mansion. This story has always fascinated and confused me, so I was curious to see how a book inspired by that case would be.

This story starts out and follows a similar path of a lot of modern thrillers: a character with a dark past is lured back to her hometown that she tried so desperately to escape. When she gets there, she’s forced to confront her past, which is ominous and spooky, and there’s usually some kind of crime that she solves that the police somehow can’t.

So what, exactly, makes this book outshine others in the genre?

Our protagonist, Naomi, is incredibly flawed but surprisingly easy to empathize with. She was stabbed by a serial killer when she was eleven, but she also had a mother who abandoned her, an alcoholic father, and a few other demons lurking in her past that get pulled to the surface as the story goes along. She had an interesting relationship with her father and some of the other men in her life, and despite them being a little cliched, they only made me warm up to her instead.

As far as plot twists go, there was a pretty big one that I figured out at about 100 pages in. I felt like it was a fairly obvious one that had the least amount of impact on the story, and it existed mostly to give the reader the satisfaction of guessing correctly on a plot twist, because the rest were so multidimensional that no one could have properly guessed them.

There were a lot of surprises in this story, and just when Naomi thought she had unveiled the truth, we would get hit with another layer that proved we knew nothing. I had a lot of fun with all the twists and turns here, and I felt that they were a little over the top but still enjoyable. Even being familiar with the Slenderman stabbing and having some guess at which direction this story would go, I found myself questioning just how closely this story mimicked the real life case because it was so different from what I was anticipating.

The pacing right off the bat was fast and only continued to climb as the story progressed. It made for such a fun, quick read that I was able to binge in a few hours. This was my first by Kate Alice Marshall, but I’m excited to see what else she writes in the future.

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