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The Killing Woods
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Killing Woods is a teen murder mystery that frequently revisits events leading up to the killing, including characters drinking and using drugs to the point of blackouts and memory loss. Violence (aside from the backdrop of murder) is infrequent, not gory, and usually involves wrestling-style fighting, although there's some mention of war-related violence. Infrequent sexual content is very powerful emotionally. Strangulation -- as a thrill and an emotional escape mechanism -- comes up for discussion. Strong language includes frequent use of "f--k," and occasional instances of other words. Teens frequently refer to "fairy dust," an unspecified drug in powder form, which they apply to their gums.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
He may have confessed, but Emily can't bring herself to believe her father is guilty of murder. Determined to learn the truth, she discovers that the victim, Ashlee, was in the woods on the last night of her life, playing a dangerous kind of hide and seek. Ashlee's boyfriend Damon was playing, too, but consumed so much alcohol and drugs that he can't remember what happened -- especially whether he himself committed the crime. Emily and Damon each try to reconstruct the tragic night's events -- but how can they, if they can't trust their friends, family, or each other?
Is it any good?
With THE KILLING WOODS, author Lucy Christopher has constructed a taut, gripping teen whodunit. Told by the two narrators, the story cleverly reveals the solution piece by piece. All the classic mystery elements -- including red herrings -- are there to keep the reader guessing to the very end. Poetic language gives the psychological thriller an eerie, shadowy atmosphere.
Emily's voice is believable, but Damon's is inconsistent, which can distract the reader from the story. The surprising ending satisfies, despite the "summing up" at the police station, when the stilted, textbook-style language comes across as a contrived, gratuitous attempt to reinforce the "kids, don't do drugs" message. However, this a minor flaw in an otherwise suspenseful and compelling read.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why murder mysteries are so popular. Why are we so fascinated by them?
Do you find the teen drinking and drug use described here realistic? Do the consequences the characters have to deal with change your views about drinking and drug use?
Do you know anyone who suffers from PTSD? What are we as a society doing to help soldiers when they return from combat? Is it enough?
- Author: Lucy Christopher
- Genre: Mystery
- Topics: Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, High School
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Chicken House
- Publication date: January 7, 2014
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 17
- Number of pages: 384
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
Themes & Topics
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.