“You can’t. See, absolute darkness isn’t absolute. You can still make out shapes, ripples of movement. Branches buckled. Things flapped and scuttled. After a while, it started to rain. Your skin feels spongy, like it doesn’t belong to you. Water fills your ears. It slips between your lips, even when you jam them tight. You don’t bother brushing it from your eyes. Soon you stop feeling it. Sometimes, I think Donald Jessup isn’t what changed me. It’s the woods that changed me. It’s where I learned to live inside my head.”
Title: After The Woods
Author: Kim Savage
Publication: February 23rd 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Source: Publisher in exchange for a honest review
Summary from Goodreads:
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.
I bring this review to you today after hours of slaving away at my keyboard in pain – sort of like how I felt while reading this book. For those of you who don’t know, I broke my thumb last week and I am currently sporting a full, special Sammi-sized thumb cast – which, as you can imagine, makes typing very, very difficult. But I do so because this is a book that needs to be shared, talked about, and cherished in ways that are impossible to describe. After The Woods is terrifying, plain and simple. This book will give you the chills like you’ve never had them before and it will make you enjoy it. After The Woods will bring tears to your eyes, it will make you bite your tongue so hard you’ll taste your own blood, and it will make you scream in rage all while clinging desperate to the edge of your seat.
I have never read a book like this before. Books… they don’t usually scare me. They don’t make me want to look over my shoulder and they don’t make me so obviously frightened even my friends ask if I’m alright. Until now, that is. After The Woods is a very special book – it was powerful, intoxicating, and it forced me to see things in a new light that I hadn’t even known existed before hand. This book will change you – it will make you painfully aware of what is out there and just how little you truly know the people whom you call friends, even if you’ve known them for years.
After The Woods brings into question just what you should sacrifice for the people you call friends. It examines the unintended consequences of selflessness. Julia Spunk was out running with her friend Olivia, or Liv, when Liv ran ahead and was violently attacked. Julia comes upon the scene and tackles Liv’s attacker, and then Liv abandons her and Julia is kidnapped. She spends two days being hunted in the woods like some sick game… and her best friend ran away. Left her there. Think about that for a second… just, wow.
This book takes place a year after the events of the woods, hence the title. But, boy, the woods were not the end of it. You can’t walk away from something like that and not be different – just as Julia is different. Julia is our main protagonist, and I love her. She is cold, calculating, morbid, and everything you think someone who suffered what she did would be. She loves Liv, she lives her life day to day trying to sort through all the information she possibly can while simultaneously trying to figure out just what happened in those woods. She is broken, but strong. Traumatized but defiant and unafraid to puzzle things out most people would want to leave alone. She is so, so strong – it was truly something beautiful to read. I, in all honesty, felt like it was an honor to be in her head and read her thoughts. Now, Liv. Liv I want to strangle, hit over the head with a chair, and then strangle again. She was horrible. She was the complete opposite of Julia and the epitome of a character who is an integral part to a story even though you hate their guts.
Now, as I’ve mentioned, this book is a thriller. It terrified me and it did it’s job well – way too well if you ask me. Word of advice: Don’t stay up late at night to read it, you won’t be able to sleep. It is a very rare thing when a book effects me in such a way as this. It was like watching the most horrifying episode of a murder solving television show/ horror film you can imagine slowly unfolding right before your eyes in excruciating detail while you cannot stop it or see things coming. Bravo Kim Savage, bravo. You officially scared me shitless, that is a very hard thing to do. The pacing of this book lent itself well to the overall theme, as did the structure and specific vagueness of certain parts. This book is simply perfection that I cannot describe for fear of giving it all away. You need to experience it for yourself – but in broad daylight, and certainly not while surrounded by trees (Unless you’re into that sort of sheer terror).
Overall, After The Woods is an astounding and shocking thriller of a book that I will never forget. A story of bravery, friendship, and what it means to be a survivor – After The Woods will haunt you. This book will plague the back of your mind forever and you will love every second of it. Full of twists and turns you won’t see coming, this book is something I will not be likely to let go for a very, very long time.