In the Woods

Tor Teen. Jul. 2019. 352p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780765336552.
Gr 8 Up–When her mom heads to Europe for the summer, 17-year-old Chrystal is forced on a road trip to Oklahoma with her monster-obsessed father, who believes recent incidences in a small farming community might lead to Bigfoot or even a werewolf. Chrystal ends up spending most of her time with Logan, the clean-cut farm boy who first saw the monster and who has the kind of solid family she has always wanted. The creature escalates from killing livestock to killing girls and starts to stalk Chrystal specifically. Town people try to hunt the monster but some of them may be just as dangerous. While her father tries to prove his theories, Logan and Chrystal work to stop the werewolf and save its victims, including Logan’s father, from turning into one as well. But Chrystal’s heritage may tie her to the werewolves’ curse and require her to make the ultimate sacrifice. Told in alternating chapters by Chrystal and Logan, the dialogue between virtually all of the characters is improbable and certainly unrealistic for most teens. The author has saddled Logan with an obsession with poetry whereas Chrystal repeatedly refers to her love of Kierkegaard and her bass guitar, which she hardly picks up. Her character is more relatable than Logan’s whose overemphasized wholesomeness comes across as naiveté. The self-declared cryptologist father is depicted as a manic Dr. Who type who speaks in an oddly formal yet overly animated manner. While the plot is certainly implausible, the most unbelievable aspect is how casually, almost offhandedly, the characters accept the growing menace. Witness Chrystal blithely cleaning blood off the walls after Logan’s mother shoots and kills two men while Logan then plays video games.
VERDICT Skip in favor of Lish McBride’s Hold Me Closer Necromancer or Maggie Stiefvater’s “Wolves of Mercy Falls” series.

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