The Body in the Woods, by April Henry (2014)

Genre: Mystery
Interest Level: 12-16
The Body in the WoodsThree teens volunteer for Portland Search and Rescue, and on their first official search for a missing man they find instead a girl’s body. They are pulled into the mystery from the start, as they first report to detectives careful details about who they saw and how they found the body of what turns out to be a murdered teen. The plot moves along quickly, with clues to the killer’s real identity dropped only occasionally along the way, keeping me puzzled for a reasonable time. But the real strength of this novel is in its characters, all of them misfits who join SAR for their own reasons. Ruby struggles to understand what is normal behaviour and control her obsessive tendencies, Alexis is hiding the secret of her mother’s mental illness, and Nick needs to see himself, and have others see him, as the brave and heroic son of the soldier who died in Afghanistan when he was not yet five. The book is told in multiple points of view, switching between each of the teens and eventually the killer as well. I found that shift awkward – nearly every chapter ends at a key point and boom, the next page puts you in another scene. It would have worked better had the chapters been longer, I think. Perhaps best known for Girl, Stolen, Henry has written several books for young adults and is a skilled creator of plot-driven mysteries peopled with interesting and well-drawn characters. Here, she also uses the Portland setting to great effect, making references to an early twilight, rain gear, real-life parks and squares. She avoids a heavy-handed approach in her discussion of teen homelessness and mental illness while still raising readers’ awareness of the complexity of the issues. The first book in the Point Last Seen series, this book was provided as an advance e-copy by NetGalley.
More discussion and reviews of this novel: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18490532

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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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