The Body in the Woodsby April Henry (Website, Facebook, Twitter)
Series: Point Last Seen #1
Published by Henry Holt and Co., Macmillan on 2014-06-17
Genres: Action & Adventure, Adolescence, General, Mysteries & Detective Stories, Social Issues, Young Adult
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I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
In this new series told from multiple perspectives, teen members of a search and rescue team discover a dead body in the woods.
Alexis, Nick, and Ruby have very different backgrounds: Alexis has spent her life covering for her mom’s mental illness, Nick’s bravado hides his fear of not being good enough, and Ruby just wants to pursue her eccentric interests in a world that doesn’t understand her. When the three teens join Portland County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, they are teamed up to search for a autistic man lost in the woods. What they find instead is a dead body. In a friendship that will be forged in danger, fear, and courage, the three team up to find the girl’s killer—before he can strike one of their own.
This first book in April Henry’s Point Last Seen YA mystery series is full of riveting suspense, putting readers in the middle of harrowing rescues and crime scene investigations.
For Ruby, Alexis, and Nick, their first call out as part of Portland County’s Search and Rescue (SAR) not only means a chance for them to help find lost hikers, but it unwittingly puts them in the path of a serial killer when they discover a dead body in the woods instead of the missing autistic man that they were searching for. They encounter the killer when he’s on the way out of the woods after committing the crime, but he’s only one of several people that they talk to as they walk the trail looking for their target man. Once they discover the dead girl, the three searchers react very differently: Ruby is fascinated and only concerned about protecting any evidence that may be in the area, Nick immediately found something to protect themselves in case the killer came back, and Alexis could only identify with the victim that had her hair color and looked to be their age.
These three very different reactions highlighted the very different characters that narrated The Body in the Woods. All of them don’t quite fit in with the rest of their peers, but they don’t quite fit in with each other either. Ruby is super smart, but she is fascinated with crime and death. While her doctor parents are very concerned for her and her lack of friends, they think that joining SAR has generally been good for her–until she finds a body instead of a living hiker. When she doesn’t think that the police are doing a good enough job investigating this death and other similar deaths, Ruby is sure that there is a serial killer stalking the Portland area, but the head detective won’t take her seriously since she’s just a teenager.
Nick dreams of heroic rescues, just like he thinks his deceased father must have done in the armed forces in Iraq before he was killed. He joined SAR so he’d have a chance to make his dad proud from beyond the grave, but his mother and brother seem to not care what he does with his time–as long as he doesn’t join the military. Nick isn’t all that well-fleshed out, but maybe the author plans to go more into his character in future books.
Alexis has a very taxing home life with a mentally ill mother that she’s ashamed of, living off public assistance to get by. When her mother stops taking her medicine and goes missing, Alexis has to go on the hunt for her through the poorest neighborhoods of Portland while dealing with the aftermath of finding a dead body. Strong, brave, and smart, she somehow keeps it together, all while keeping her commitment to SAR in the middle of looking for her mother. Afterall, she needs the experience of SAR for her scholarship applications.
But through it all, Ruby keeps digging into these seemingly random murders and making connections that the cops aren’t seeming to do. While Nick and Alexis help Ruby and the police out whenever they’ve been asked, one of the trio is now in the sights of the killer. Can they figure out who they should be afraid of before it’s too late?
I give The Body in the Woods a 3.5 out of 5. With a nice story progression and a mystery that wasn’t too predictable, I really enjoyed the search and rescue aspects. The book is told in alternating third person point of view between Alexis, Nick, Ruby, and even the killer, so you get some insight as to why the girls that are abducted and murdered are picked. However, these chapters are often short and you don’t get an as in-depth look into the characters as I’d like. It makes for a fast paced book, but it lacks in the depth department because of the quick jumping back and forth between perspectives. I really liked Alexis and Ruby as characters, they were very real with relatable problems and I hope that Nick will be more fleshed out in future books. Overall, this is a solid, well-written and entertaining first book in the Point Last Seen series.