The Body in the Woods by April Henry
Summary: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.
Lesson to Self:
When a murder mystery has a girl with green eyeshadow on the cover, let that tell you something about the novel.
When compared to other books in the same genre such as Abigail Haas’ Dangerous Girls or Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game (both of which I love), this, unfortunately, faults in comparison. While I didn’t seem to necessarily dislike it as much as some of my fellow reviewers did, unfortunately, I still found it to have faltered in quite a few places.
Nick, Alexis and Ruby are all volunteers on their local Search and Rescue Team. One day while looking for a missing man, they end up stumbling upon a dead girl who appears to have been murdered. Can they overcome their differences and team up to find the murderer…before he tries to kill someone else?
While the premise was decent at best, I found one of my biggest problems to be the writing. The story is written in alternating chapters between Nick, Alexis, and Ruby – all in third person. It’s hard to write a book from multiple perspectives because you have to make each perspective unique and distinguishable, but it’s even harder to do so when you write from an outside POV like 3rd person. I think by choosing to write in third person Henry made more work for herself than necessary, which is unfortunate. Not only that, but, just in general, Henry’s prose was so worn-down and bland. It almost felt like Henry wasn’t writing with passion.
Character-wise, I found that each character was either stereotyped or simply annoying. I wasn’t able to form a bond with any of the three main characters in this novels; and that definitely deterred me from the story as a whole.
- Nick’s dad died as an offer in the Iraq War, and his whole life he’s tried to hide his fear of not being good enough. I found the story of Nick’s father to be more of a way to add “development” to him than anything else, but, unfortunately, that didn’t work for me.
- Having a form of autism, Ruby has never felt like anyone has ever understood her. I found her personality to be very stereotyped – especially her autism. Her condition was portrayed over the top and quite unrealistically in my eyes, and thus I was never quite fond of Ruby as a character.
- Alexis spends her life trying to cover up for her mother – who has a mental illness. While I admired Alexis’ love for her mother and her loyalty towards her, I found Alexis to be a bit of a Mary Sue.
As for the actual mystery aspect, I found The Body in the Woods to be quite predictable. I would have preferred it if there to be a few more red herrings or plot twists thrown in, but unfortunately, there weren’t, and I found myself easily guessing the culprit within 20% in.
While this is certainly not the best mystery or thriller in the genre, I’ll confess it had its points of entertainment; but, ultimitely, it failed to live up, and there’s really not much more to it than that.