Author: Kim Savage
Genre: contemporary, thriller, mystery
Published: Feb 2016
Source: publishers for review
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.
In this debut novel by Kim Savage, After the Woods is graced with some evocative writing, an interesting plotline, and several intriguing, if nebulously drawn, characters in a somewhat generic thriller plot. The plot itself twists around several times over the course of the book, which makes for an eventful and occasionally unpredictable read, but one that was perhaps shallower and less meaningful in how it explored the inciting events that set the story into motion. There's good setup and good elements to the story here but After the Woods also felt rushed by the short length and curbed by the narrow nature of the POV.
Part contemporary, part thriller, part mystery, Savage ties her plotlines together in After the Woods pretty neatly, if not the most originally. I liked how the story progressed with main character Julia's slow awakening of what transgressions really happened, then questioning what she is told, and then becoming more proactive and less passive in pursuing the truth. She's the strongest aspect of After the Woods by far. She's the most defined character, even if her memory is unsteady; her personality is realistic and varied. As the story builds its tension and Julia's comprehension of what really happened that day expands, the novel it its stride and becomes pretty hard to put down.
Part of the issue with After the Woods' overall execution is that it tries to do too many things, to be too many things, and to say too much in too short of timespan. Therefore, a lot of the plot points and issues feel weak or shallow when the author had good intentions or was intending to reinforce a theme or point. It made the story feel unfocused, and drew off attention and focus from the plot. It doesn't help that readers will likely spot the overall reveal before the ending, though the author has one or tricks that can come without warning.
For me this was not bad, but it's another contemporary thriller that feels rather damned with faint praise. I did enjoy the novel, but never made a lasting impression on me and its small issues built into a larger dissatisfaction once I set the book down for the final time.