Not What I Expected

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stephanie ward Avatar


3.5 Stars

'The Woods Are Always Watching' is a new standalone survival thriller from bestselling author Stephanie Perkins. The story follows two best friends, Neena and Josie, as they embark on a three-day camping trip in the mountains surrounding their hometown. The girls soon realize that they aren't just trying to survive their natural surroundings but something much worse is also watching them from among the trees. The girls' friendship and very lives are threatened as things become more frantic and dangerous in the forest.

This is the first book by this author that I've read. I'm a huge fan of young adult thrillers so this novel jumped out at me immediately. It ended up not being what I had expected or hoped for, which was a disappointment. The main characters, Neena and Josie, are realistic enough and I enjoyed getting to know each of them throughout the story. They were a bit lacking in some aspects and I felt like a lot of stereotypes got thrown in - not just with the girls but with the story overall. Neena and Josie's friendship is interesting and I was empathetic to their situation - with them being separated across the country because of the colleges they were attending. The cultural references mentioned felt a bit forced and overdone to me and it actually ended up bothering me more than I thought it would.

Another aspect of the book that I personally didn't care for was the writing style. The story is told from the third person and divided into three sections - when the girls are together, when they are separated, and when they are reunited. In the second section, where they are separated, each chapter is told from the specific perspective of one of the girls. I don't like the third-person POV because I don't think it allows a deeply personal connection between the reader and the narrator. That definitely holds true for this book. If it had been told from either of the girls' perspectives or even alternating points of view, I would have liked it so much more. This is only my personal opinion and other readers aren't going to agree with me.

The overarching themes of friendship, survival, and hope were woven into the story seamlessly and fit perfectly with the story and characters. Although this book didn't turn out to be what I had hoped or wanted, I know that other readers will definitely enjoy it. I'd recommend it to fans of YA, contemporary fiction, survival stories, action/adventure, and fans of the author's other books.