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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Stevie often references Frances Glessner Lee, an early pioneer in the science of forensics, and examines a book of her Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, crime scenes duplicated in miniature used to train investigators.
The search for justice and truth. Friendship. Coping with loss and the lasting impact of tragedy.
Positive Role Models
On the edgy side: Lots of teens -- high school seniors, recent grads -- doing what they're not supposed to, in 1978 and the present. In 1978, teens sneak out of a camp where they are counselors, smoke pot, drink, drive drunk. In present, teens mostly sneak out, but main character Stevie lies to her parents about the nature of her summer job in order to go. That said, Stevie understands her grave responsibility much more than the man who hired her to look into a cold case. She's interested more in offering closure to families than in making a popular podcast. She earns trust of those still traumatized because she's both professional and compassionate. LGBTQ+ community is well represented, in older generations and young.
Violence & Scariness
Story revolves around four teen murders in 1978, with flashback scenes full of details: teens bludgeoned, stabbed, tied up. Three are put in a hunter's box; the fourth is discovered by a counselor close to a camp. Also in 1978, mentions of a boy hit by a drunk driver while on his bike, a drunk and high teen crashing his motorcycle and dying, and another murder. In the present, teens are chased and shot at, a woman falls to her death, and someone breaks an arm and nearly drowns in a fall.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some kissing and rolling around in a tent. Lots of innuendo about teens having sex in the woods.
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A wide array of swearing from the rare "f--king" and "bulls--t" to the more common "a--hole" and "damn."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
In the 1970s, lots of teen pot smoking and dealing, drinking, driving drunk and high. A dad gives teens beers at a pool party. In the present, nothing.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Box in the Woods is a stand-alone mystery featuring the teen sleuth Stevie Bell from the popular Truly Devious trilogy. You can read The Box in the Woods without reading the trilogy first, but there are references to the murders Stevie solved in Truly Devious and some friendship history that you'll be missing. This time Stevie is trying to solve a cold case from 1978, where four teens were bludgeoned and stabbed to death in the woods outside a summer camp. Details of the deaths, the discovery, and the aftermath come out in flashbacks. Also in 1978, there are mentions of a boy hit by a drunk driver while on his bike, a drunk and high teen crashing his motorcycle and dying, and another murder. In the present, teens are chased and shot at, a woman falls to her death, and someone breaks an arm and nearly drowns in a fall. Swearing encompasses everything from the rare use of "f--king" in stressful situations to "a--hole" and "damn." There's a ton of teen drinking, pot smoking, and pot dealing in 1978 and none in the present. Expect some kissing and lots of innuendo about '70s teens having sex in the woods and many mentions of Fleetwood Mac and Led Zeppelin. Aspiring sleuths will enjoy learning about a pioneer in forensic science, Frances Glessner Lee, and her fascinating Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death. They will also admire Stevie's usual careful attention to detail, professionalism, and compassion for all those in a small town who experienced this tragedy.
Is It Any Good?
For anyone who adores summer camp murder mysteries, you'll find this book irresistible, and, as a bonus, it's also witty as heck. Stevie Bell, from the popular Truly Devious series, is back. She loves solving mysteries so much that she's willing to help a "tech bro" with his crime podcast, and she's also willing to work at a camp and do outdoorsy things -- and she's not the least bit outdoorsy. Carson as the "tech bro" is a pretty astute send-up of overzealous entrepreneurs who use terms like "Think Jams." Stevie may not be as reluctant as she should be about collaborating with Carson, but she's 17 without a lot of power in the situation. She decides to ignore him instead of quit when he steps out of line.
When Carson is officially on the sidelines, Stevie gets down to work -- often by sneaking out of work at the camp, but her roommate Janelle has the arts and crafts more than covered. Like any good murder mystery, there are lots of taped interviews to ponder, some precious object missing, another mysterious death, and a detail that gets overlooked until the last second of divine inspiration. And there's danger in the woods. In the dark. You'll be hooked until the final showdown/small town Think Jam, and if you solve the crime before the incredible Stevie, you should have your own podcast.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.