Author: McCormick Templeton
Genre: YA, mystery, thriller
Publication Date: July 10, 2012 (North America – Random House)
Source: NetGalley/Edelweiss review copy
Summary: Are the woods behind St. Bede’s Academy really haunted, or does bad stuff just happen there? When Calista Wood, a new student, arrives midway through her junior year, St. Bede’s feels like a normal school . . . until she discovers that a girl had disappeared a couple of months earlier. Some kids think she ran away, others think she was murdered, but it’s only when Cally starts digging around that she finds the startling truth.
Watch as Cally enters a world of privilege, weekend-long parties, high school romances, and . . . well-kept secrets. This page-turner will appeal to teens looking for a fast-paced thriller. Written in a voice at once gripping and crystal clear, debut novelist, McCormick Templeman, will take readers on a twisting and turning journey as only a “new girl” can experience.
☆: 2.5/5 stars – gorgeously written but in terms of plot, a bit of a letdown.
Review: This one, while beautifully written, was quite the disappointment. While the author gets points for working magical realism into the story (and gorgeously, I might add), the fact that the hook doesn’t sink in until nearly a third of the way in as well as how the main arc was dealt out in unevenly large chunks just didn’t work for me. And that really saddens me because this book was so lovely and magical to read, had the arc pacing and hook been sorted out? I might have put it on my best of 2012 list.
To be honest, Templeman is a gorgeous, sensuous writer with a bright future ahead of her. She’s ridiculously talented in the sensory language and imagery, and the way she worked in magical realism to the story with such ease really, really impressed me. It’s what saved the bit of the book I did manage to get through because simply, it was enchanting and lovely. And it wasn’t a problem for me at all.
What the problem for me was two main things: how the main plot arc was dealt out in terms of what it was, and its pacing, and the hook of the plot itself. Now, ideally, the hook of a book should sink into you within the first sentence, if not the first paragraph or, worst case scenario, the first few chapters. This didn’t happen in this book – I was over ninety pages into the book before the main plot arc hook successfully sunk in when the first body was found. The emotional hook did sink in a little in the early chapters when we hear about what’s happened to Cally’s sister, it didn’t sink in as nearly as deep as it should have in those pivotal first few chapters.
Then there’s how the plot arc information itself was dealt out – we get it only in large, uneven chunks throughout the book. In some parts of the book, even within the little woods themselves, the information and tension of the main plot arc was simply just not there at all when ideally, the tension of your main plot arc should be on every page, in every chapter, and you should be feeling it evenly throughout the book.
Another wonderful thing that Templeman does well – she really knows how to build a tiny world around the school and the little woods, and makes it very insular and detailed. While I felt the idea of a prep school was a bit of an easy out on how to do this, I still liked the way she did it overall. The characters, while individually original and memorable, as a group I found a bit cliched (the jock, the popular kids, etc) and I wish Templeman hadn’t played it safe there. Otherwise, in those two areas, she did just fine.
So, unfortunately, this one just didn’t work too well for me. But this is just me – I’m very particular about my books, if you’ve been reading the blog for awhile. “The Little Woods” is out from Random House in North America July 10th, 2012 so be sure to check it out then!