What the Woods Keep (Katya de Becerra, A&U Children’s)
Hayden Holland is different from most other teenagers. Her mother disappeared in weird circumstances, and her father moved them to the city, away from the small Colorado town of Promise where she had been born, and away from Shannon, her best friend and the boy next door. But trouble followed Hayden: on her 18th birthday, she receives a secret inheritance—her family’s home in Promise, bequeathed by her mother. With her friend Del, Hayden seeks answers to the childhood mysteries that have plagued her life, but things only become stranger—and more dangerous—for Hayden and everyone around her. What the Woods Keep is a speculative fiction novel for older teen readers, in a similar vein to Maggie Stiefvater’s ‘Raven Cycle’ books, with many dark fantasy tropes in play. Unfortunately, De Becerra does not have Stiefvater’s deft hand at character or storytelling. There are some interesting facets, particularly the scientific terminology that is cleverly unpacked at the start of many chapters. Sadly though, this can’t make up for a story that doesn’t completely make sense, with some inconsistent characterisation and issues with continuity in the text. There is a good idea at the heart of this novel, but De Becerra doesn’t quite pull it off.
Tehani Croft is a lecturer in teacher-librarianship, a publisher and literary awards judge