The Body in the Woods by April Henry

A complimentary advanced reader copy of this book was provided by Henry Holt & Co in exchange for an honest review. (Thank you!) My review was in no way influenced by this consideration.

I love crime fiction. My introduction to modern adult literature as a young teenager (i.e., things that were written by non-British people after the 1800s) were John Grisham and Michael Chrichton, and I’ve been in love with intrigue and puzzles ever since.

The Body in the Woods is my first April Henry novel, and I wasn’t sure what I thought of the idea of a YA crime thriller. I’m not sure why I had any hesitation about it–maybe it seemed like it had the potential to become overly melodramatic or sensationalized with teenagers involved? I’m chastising myself for those fears now. Good writing, and bad, are no respecters of genre, and April Henry is an excellent writer.

Henry’s style isn’t quite like anything I’ve come across in either YA or the crime genres before, and I grew to quickly appreciate it: most murder mysteries are written in third person, following the story of one character closely, drawing us into the main character’s world intimately, so that we’re closely tied to the story, emotionally. Henry takes an entirely different tack: her storytelling is impersonal and observational, as if the narrator wants to keep us a step removed from each of the characters’ lives so that we can examine what’s really happening. It took some adjusting to…for about 3 pages, and then I thought it really worked.

The story of Body is revealed as we follow each of the major players, in turn, and we get all kinds of backstory and information on each of the people we meet–including the killer. Absolutely nothing we learn is unimportant, and the plot is brilliantly laid out. I was thrilled with the way each piece of the story came together and made sense in the end, particularly when the twist at the end is revealed. I had one of those moments when the realization of what’s happening is SO HUGE that the words on the page all blurred for a minute and my head spun a little. I love being surprised, so huge kudos to April Henry for that!

If I have one regret, it’s the last couple of lines of the book–the romance angle was burning at just the right pace, for me, and then it felt a little forced. But otherwise, I loved this book. I loved that the characters were flawed and awkward and didn’t always do the right things. If anything, I’d just like to see more of them, but I noticed that Goodreads is now listing this book as #1 of the Point Last Seen series, so perhaps I’ll get my wish?

Squeaky clean, intelligent, and great fun to read. 4.5 stars.

First line: “For Alexis Frost, Nick Walker, and Ruby McClure, it all started with a phone call and two texts.”

4.5 Stars

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