Books Reviews Suspense Young Adult

What She Found in the Woods by Josephine Angelini

Looking for an unputdownable YA thriller? Angelini’s latest, What She Found in the Woods, reads like super-glue. Unputdownable! It’s a deliciously dark and twisted young-adult suspense read and oh so good!

Stepping into the fragmented mind of main character Magdalena, who is freshly released from a nine-month stint in a mental hospital (following the biggest scandal her elite New York high school has seen) is a kaleidoscopic experience. Lena’s brain is drugged up, and her memories are scattered. In bits and pieces of flashback, we learn what led to Lena’s nervous breakdown and the metric ton of guilt she now carries with her.

Other than a journal to absorb the outpourings of her mind, Lena has no one to help her cope. Not with the repercussions of the scandal she helped create, which include sudden friendlessness and parental abandonment (on account of the societal humiliation Lena caused them). Not with the mental illness that runs in her family and affects her too. The only people left willing to take her in are her grandparents, who live on the other side of the country in the Pacific Northwest. Although her grandparents, too, are not big on tackling issues and have made an art form out of keeping the conversation strictly on the pleasant side of things. And so, Lena spends her days hiking the forest trails behind her grandparents’ house, until one day, Wildboy, Bo, stumbles upon her picnic blanket and literally lands himself in her lap.

But all is not as it seems, not inside Lena’s head nor in the small town where she now lives. And soon, it is not merely Lena’s dark past threatening her future as the bodies in the woods start to pile up.

Magdalena, or Lena, as she prefers to be called, is a controversial protagonist who may ruffle feathers. And if her character doesn’t occasionally rile you, then a few of her actions certainly will. That being said, the controversiality of her character — the things that make her unlikeable, at times — is what I like best about her. After all, which character is ever straight-up good or bad? And isn’t unlikeable just another word for being human (flawed)?

Lena has skeletons in her closet and possibly (slight?) sociopathic tendencies. And while that should make you think twice before inviting this girl into your inner circle, it lends Lena an air of authenticity often absent in YA fiction where an unlikable protagonist can result in readers experiencing the entire reading experience as unlikable. It’s a daring choice. And one that has paid off for Angelini in What She Found in the Woods. From start to finish, this story hooks you and does not let go.

If you enjoyed books like Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ The Naturals series and Rory Power’s Wilder Girls, you might totally find yourself loving What She Found in the Woods.


Book: What She Found in the Woods
Published: Macmillan Children’s Books
Pages: 378
Publication Date: July 25th, 2019
Age Range: 14+
Stars: 4.5/5

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