Entering St. Bede’s Academy halfway through her junior year, Cally Wood is thrust into the complex social world of the upper echelon, but she is more interested in Iris, a girl whose recent disappearance is similar to that of Cally’s own sister ten years earlier. (from back cover)Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Things I have learned from this book:
1. Teens do NOT make good detectives, no matter how many mysteries they’ve read.
2. Everyone at a boarding school is either mean, on drugs, or having sex with the wrong person.
3. Happy endings don’t always mean hooking up with a romantic partner.
Technically I already knew that third one, and I had an inkling about the second one after reading books like New Girl and Killing Mr. Griffin (although technically KMG isn’t set in a boarding school). But the first thing– that was a shock! A teen girl, NOT being good at solving mysteries? My foundations have been rocked.
Just kidding. Of course teenagers aren’t good at solving crimes! Why should they be? Most teenagers are so busy sticking their feet into their mouths that there’s no way they’ve have the foresight, knowledge, or strength of conviction to actually get anything useful done. Cally, the teenage girl who stars in this book, is no different, really. She puts in a good effort, but most of the time I wanted to shake her because she couldn’t figure out the most simplest thing that I, a grown-up adult who has graduated from college and everything, could see clearly.
So in that sense maybe this isn’t the best YA mystery book in the world. However, in every other sense, The Little Woods is actually a very GOOD book. I love how tense everything is, how there’s an underlying sense of horror that you can’t get away from. Following Cally around through the book was really fun, if sometimes annoying,1 and the ending was FANTASTIC.
I’ll admit that sometimes certain plot points only seemed to be there to fill in potential plot holes. Take the case of the missing aunt. In the beginning of the book it seems like Cally’s aunt really cares for her– she took Cally in when Cally’s mother wandered off, after all– but she only calls Cally once at the school, and Cally mentions several times that she didn’t understand why Cally didn’t call her more. I wondered that, too! What made a previously loving aunt stop giving her niece attention? It was never explained, and it seemed to me that it only happened because Cally needed to be cut off from proper civilization even more (having already been cut off via phone and internet). But in terms of characterization, it just didn’t make sense.
But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there’s a very good reason why the aunt never called, and it just got cut out or something. But obsessing over that plot point (and the reasons behind it) took valuable time away from appreciating the rest of the book, which is pretty darned good. It’s a decent mystery, with interesting (if malevolent) characters, and the atmosphere is top-notch. If you like books set in boarding schools, and if you like YA mysteries where the teen detective is a little more ineffectual than usual, you’d probably like The Little Woods.
Read: July 6-7, 2012
- mainly because Cally is my kind of kid! She describes herself as a “Wednesday Addams” kind of gal. How can you not like that sort of character, eh? ↩