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What the Woods Keep

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On her eighteenth birthday, Hayden inherits her childhood home—on the condition that she uncover its dark secrets.

Hayden tried to put the past behind her, and it worked. She's getting ready for college, living in a Brooklyn apartment, and hanging out with her best friend and roommate Del. But now it's all catching up with her: her mother's mysterious disappearance a decade before, her father's outlandish theories about a lost supernatural race, and Hayden's own dark dreams of strange symbols and rituals in the Colorado woods where she grew up.

As soon as Hayden arrives at her hometown, her friend Del in tow, it begins: Neighbors whisper secrets about Hayden's mother; the boy next door is now all grown-up in a very distracting way; and Hayden feels the trees calling to her. And among them, deep in the woods, Hayden will discover something incredible—something that threatens reality itself.

352 pages

First published September 18, 2018

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About the author

Katya de Becerra

9 books185 followers
Katya de Becerra writes atmospheric young adult horror featuring determined characters, complicated families and enigmatic places. Critics called her debut WHAT THE WOODS KEEP "a thoughtful and compelling horror fantasy” (The Bulletin) and “a narrative that will keep readers enthralled” (Booklist), while her second novel OASIS earned a starred review from Booklist. Katya regularly publishes short fiction in anthologies and literary magazines. She is also co-editor of the anthology THIS FRESH HELL, which reimagines and subverts horror tropes in new and unexpected ways. As a child, Katya wanted to be an Egyptologist, but instead she earned a PhD in Cultural Anthropology and now works at a university, where she teaches and researches as well as supervises graduate students in Anthropology, Creative Writing and Education. Katya is a short version of her real name, which is very long and gets mispronounced a lot. Her third novel, WHEN GHOSTS CALL US HOME, is forthcoming in 2023.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 292 reviews
Profile Image for Candace Robinson.
Author 47 books981 followers
August 6, 2018
I just knew I had to read this book when I saw the cover and read the blurb. Plus tress... trees... and trees!! 

Right off the bat, the writing draws the reader in with its alluring words. Hayden is an interesting character, and you really never know what's going on exactly with her. She's well developed and as the story goes on you find out more! There's present stuff, some past stuff, and a whole lot of I need to find out what's going on.

The book pretty much had everything—friendship, mystery, creepiness, and a dash of romance. Trust me, you'll want to get lost in these woods!
Profile Image for Katya de Becerra.
Author 9 books185 followers
May 16, 2018
Note from the author: I’m beyond excited to share this book with you all! I'm obviously biased but I love this book, and hope you will too:)

A bit more about What the Woods Keep: It is first person POV; it is spooky; and it deals with topics very dear to me, namely unbreakable female friendships, complicated inter-generational relationships, and different ways people perceive the world. This book is also my love letter to urban/contemporary fantasy and its "tropes": a girl coming into her powers while dealing with her family’s legacy, the nature-vs-nurture debate, and, of course, the Forest as a perfect symbol for the unknown and terrifying.

WHAT THE WOODS KEEP will officially be out in the world on September 18, 2018! You can pre-order it at most places: https://us.macmillan.com/books/978125... (also support your local bookseller, if possible!). I rarely check in here, but I’m on most social media channels @KatyaDeBecerra if you'd like to get in touch.

Some additional reading:)

This interview

This short essay about how my anthropological background influenced my writing

This guest blog post for NaNoWriMo
Profile Image for Cindy.
407 reviews111k followers
November 11, 2018
I liked that each chapter started with an explanation of theoretical physics in relation to the events in the book and the theme of female friendship. That's about it. I found the story to be pretty boring with forgettable characters and a generic romance in which the love interest's attitude towards the MC didn't make sense. I started to speed-read through the second half of the book just so that I could get it over with faster. Definitely a miss for me, and a book I'll soon forget.
Profile Image for Kate (beautifulbookland).
372 reviews117 followers
June 3, 2018
Holy crap, this book is good. Before I read it, I thought it sounded similar to The Hazel Wood (which I loved!) but once I started, I couldn’t really see any similarities apart from the creepy house (and the fact that I enjoyed both books immensely, of course).

Because, for me, The Hazel Wood had quite a whimsical, behind-a-pane-of-glass feel to it, where I knew what was going on but I wasn’t quite sure all the time.

But What the Woods Keep is written in a way that makes the story easy to follow, all the while keeping its cards close to its chest, allowing it to keep some of the mystery. There are twists in the plot that will keep you gripped, and the writing is simply addictive.

What It’s About

With What the Woods Keep, Katya manages to weave a deliciously creepy story that follows an eighteen year old girl who, on her eighteenth birthday, is left her childhood home by her late mother - with the request to uncover her mother’s darkest secrets, and put her past wrongs right.

The Writing

This book is written in first person and is narrated by Hayden, who is a fabulous main character. She has just the right amount of dark to be mysterious (without being a raging psychopath), and is very science and logic based, resolutely refusing any supernatural possibilities.

At the beginning of a lot of the chapters, Hayden tells us different scientific discoveries and theories, and then explains how they can fit in with her life and what she’s going through. I found them incredibly interesting (despite being incredibly confused - but impressed! - by a lot of them).

As well as interesting science theories, I also loved learning about the Nibelung. I must admit, I’d never heard of the Nibelung and had to google the term to see if it was an actual thing, or just something that Katya had cooked up for her story. The Nibelung are part of Germanic mythology, and they’re pretty fascinating (and, I must say, Katya has definitely done her research for this book!).

The Characters

As I mentioned earlier, Hayden is a brilliant character, but the secondary characters are also fab - especially Hayden’s best friend, Del. Del, who is funny and flirty and is the light to Hayden’s dark. She’s a brilliant best friend, despite Hayden not being the easiest people to get along with; she follows Hayden to her home town without a second thought. They are literal friendship goals, and I loved their relationship.

There’s also a very sweet love interest, Shannon, the boy next door who is now all grown up (I don’t know if this is just me, but I’d literally never heard of a guy being called Shannon before, so it did sort of take some getting used to because I kept picturing a girl). The romance is by no means overpowering, though, and because Hayden and Shannon were best friends growing up, there’s no insta-love!

The Verdict

I loved this book! It had my heart racing, and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. It’s literally mental how this is Katya’s debut novel; I can’t wait to read what she does next!

*Thank you so much to Katya for sending me an arc, I greatly appreciate it*

Profile Image for Tara ☽.
303 reviews242 followers
Want to read
August 20, 2018
Look at this cover. I want to lick it.
Profile Image for Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews.
1,878 reviews266 followers
April 26, 2019
The author of What the Woods Keep, Katya de Becerra, caught my attention by the fact that she is a Russian native, now an Australian, who learnt English by translating Queen songs with the aid of a Russian-English Dictionary. This is a great claim to fame and the fact that Katya de Becerra has published her first book in English is a noteworthy accomplishment. What the Woods Keep is a dark and swirling young adult novel that draws on themes of fantasy and mysticism.

At the heart of Katya de Becerra’s novel, What the Woods Keep, is central protagonist Hayden. To mark her eighteenth birthday, Hayden receives the gift of her childhood home. But Hayden’s childhood home has many deep seated secrets, and as Hayden has worked hard to conceal her painful past, returning to the site of her problems may be fraught with complications. Hayden’s journey encompasses her mother’s strange disappearance, along with her father’s wild accusations of a lost race. Hayden herself has nightmares, which are defined by odd symbols linking to the woods where she lived as a child. Hayden decides to make the difficult trek back to her old home and what she encounters there is quite strange indeed. It is up to Hayden to uncover the secrets of the woods and what they mean for her past, present and future.

I don’t usually gravitate towards the genre or themes What the Woods Keep falls into. I often fail to understand or engage with fantasy, science fiction and speculative fiction novels, which are the categories this particular novel slots into. However, I do appreciate a good solid family mystery novel and I am glad I gave What the Woods Keep a go. For a book targeted at older teen readers, I have to say this one really challenged and perplexed me. What the Woods Keep offered a pure exercise of the mind. It is good every now and then to challenge your reading choices.

There is some great foreshadowing that occurs in this novel. Even the cover worked to draw me in. The book itself is a visual spectacle. Dark and twisty forest branches adorn the front, back and initial opening pages of this book. Accompanying the spooky branches are strange symbols, which piqued my curiosity factor. Themes wise, What the Woods Keep is a very clever novel. Katya de Becerra draws on aspects of science and technology to heighten the tension of the mystery aspect of this novel. In today’s world where technology and STEM concepts seem to dominate, it is a good to see a novel for our older teen readers the taps into this highly relevant mode of thinking.

Hayden, the lead protagonist is a character that I am sure younger readers will be able to relate to with ease. As I am an older reader, the connection wasn’t completely there, but I was still interested in her predicament and I cared for her welfare. The periphery characters build upon Hayden’s story, adding further speculation to the events at hand. These include Hayden’s family, friends and love interest. The ancestral home Hayden inherits also has a mind and presence of its own, feeding in to the eerie atmosphere of the novel.

The structure of What the Woods Keep is quite unique. The first person point of view of Hayden sits alongside a collection of different text mediums. These include letters, wills, forms, handwritten notes, medical reports, interview transcripts and diaries. Varying the modes to tell this intriguing story is an interesting approach to structure a novel, and it definitely works to heighten the puzzle aspect of the story at hand.

What the Woods Keep is a mystical adventure of one young woman’s quest to unveil the secrets of her childhood home. A fantasy based book that transcends the dark recesses of your mind, expect to be tested, as well as shocked by this debut novel from Katya de Becerra.

*Thanks extended to Allen & Unwin for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.

What the Woods Keep is book #55 of the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge
Profile Image for Katherine Moore.
167 reviews45 followers
September 12, 2018
Now that you have hopefully read the synopsis, which really doesn’t come close to explaining how thrilling and complex this book is, let me get into the deep, dark woods of Promise, Colorado. Don’t enter without being prepared to read something that will test your belief in the supernatural, at the same time as serve up facts about physics and give you a story steeped in myth and old blood rites.

This book feels like it blurs the lines between science-fiction, fantasy, and mystery, targeting a young adult audience, but it’s a highly intelligent read (it comes from a real smart cookie of an author, so that doesn’t surprise me).

‘What The Woods Keep’ centers around an eighteen-year old girl called Hayden, who is suffering an identity crisis, as she inherits the Manor she grew up in, and trying to come to terms with her mother’s disappearance so many years ago and the dark secrets behind it. She struggles with how she sees her father’s work and his hair-brained theories that have got him ostracized from the scientific community, and also with what she knows about her mother’s contradictory beliefs of mythology, the rituals she seemed to practice in the woods, and her own frightening dreams.

Hayden’s friendship with her roommate Del, who she brings back to Promise with her, who seems to be her diametric opposite, and a grounding force in her life, is a constant source of support, and a voice of reason (I’ve always wished for someone like that); I thought their interactions were some of the most lovely things about book. Exploring relationships is key to this novel: the two friends, the loss of a mother, how a father impacts his daughter, reuniting with old friends, and navigating it all while developing a relationship with the inner self and growing up.

One of the key elements to the woods and town of Promise giving you nothing but the chills, is the way in which Katya is able to paint such a dark and vivid picture of the inhabitants. I don’t like making comparisons to other books (so I won’t) but since I’m a ‘Twin Peaks’ fan, I’ll go there; I definitely got that sort of vibe when I read this, and I’ll tell you that was my favorite show of the 90’s. The individual characters of Abigail Reaser, Hayden’s childhood friend Shannon, (now all grown-up), the bizarre Elspeth, even Hayden’s psychiatrist…they all are so original and/or fabulously strange. There is also so much atmosphere swirling around the small town, the weather being so stormy, the ravens flying near Hayden, the close by woods, you can feel it all when you’re reading the book; knowing that the girls are out there in that big house alone, it’s all what will make you stay reading with the lights on. The dark and stormy tone of the book, the loneliness of the house in the woods, and the creepy characters particularly make this the perfect autumnal read.

The story beneath the surface of the novel, of the ‘Nibelungs’, is fascinating and mysterious, and having it run concurrently in the same book with a basecamp where blood samples are being collected, mean (Norse) mythology and science-fiction are melded together. Katya’s background in anthropology, Egyptology, and with her traveling around the world, give the pages its personality, and I love how she used everything from her love of movies and books (references to Stephen King and David Cronenburg), to her sense of displacement as an expat (I understand this!) to influence her work. And the beginnings of each chapter are so brilliant, that you may want to have a notebook for all the useful facts**and pieces of knowledge that are shared.

This is seriously one of the most unique, intelligent, and mystical novels I’ve ever read. The twists and turns continue right up until the very end and the pages will take you to strange depths that are unexpected and exciting. And the further you delve into the woods, the more likely it is you will be pulled in to Miss Katya’s ‘Promise’; it’s quite the adventure, with an ending that will leave you hoping there’s another book coming.

**Facts and topics included: laws of thermodynamics, sleepwalking, Norse gods. If anything, you will be a smarter person for having read this book!
Profile Image for Caryn Lix.
Author 4 books157 followers
June 18, 2018
What an amazing, creepy, spooktacular book! What the Woods Keep is a unique blend of fantasy, sci-fi, and horror story all rolled into one. It gave me shivers down my spine and kept me awake at night, both because of the chill factor and just because I couldn't wait to see what happened next.

This book is everything you could want, from a spooky cabin in the woods to a massive conspiracy to a fantasy romance. Definitely check it out. It's so much fun in so many ways that you won't want to stop reading, and you'll be as excited as I am for book two!
Profile Image for Cathy.
17 reviews2 followers
May 17, 2018
Wow! What The Woods Keep was unlike anything I've ever read!!!

A delicious slow-burn mystery that darkens and spirals as it progresses, becoming more complex and fleshed out the deeper into the eponymous woods it ventures.

Exquisitely researched and doing a seamless job blending contemporary fantasy with theoretical physics and suspenseful psychological horror, this book sucks you in slowly but surely.

An immersive, claustrophobic, cerebral read that will imprint itself on your mind long after you have finished reading.

There's some of this:

There's amazing friendship between two girls who will walk through fire for one another:

And there's lots, LOTS of this:

GET READY FOR THIS! Because this book will blow your freaking socks off!!!
Profile Image for Dana L. Davis.
Author 7 books243 followers
July 3, 2018
If you like howling winds, ominous birds, dark woods, clouds casting shadows over a perfectly creepy town, blood (okay you don’t have to like blood) cryptic messages, mystery and intensely likeable heroines in the midst of it all…you will LOVE this book as much as I did. It was the perfect blend of sci-fi, mystery and fantasy. But this is not your average fantasy. It’s the kind of fantasy that makes you double bolt the door before you go to bed and maybe even leave on a light or two to ward off the scary dreams. It’s the kind of YA that reminded me of why I love YA in the first place. You escape into this beautifully built world starring an old house that seems to have a life of it’s own. It reminded me of one of my favorite childhood movies, The Watcher in the Woods. I don’t like giving too much away with reviews because there is something magical about discovering a story and letting it reveal itself to you page by page. I will just say that strange and cryptic clues have led Hayden to return to the eerie old house that she grew up in at the edge of mysterious woods. But it’s not all edge of your seat, page turning plot. It’s also got this beautiful blend of science, philosophy, psychology and even mythology—like maybe Einstein and Stephen King got together with the author, Katya de Becerra to plot this all out.

Fun read. CREEPY read. Page turner and intensely unique. I highly recommend and can’t wait for more from this author.
Profile Image for Derek Milman.
Author 3 books423 followers
May 8, 2018
WHAT THE WOODS KEEP is a pulse-pounding, nail-biting thriller.

Hayden lives in her Brooklyn apartment with her roommate and best friend Del. They're an unlikely odd couple; Del who is fashion and makeover obsessed, and Hayden who would like nothing more than to exist with a wardrobe of Doc Martens and hoodies, but something about their friendship works.

When Hayden has to go back to the Manor, the house she grew up in, and where her life was changed traumatically, Del decides to tag along for spring break. They quickly realize that everything isn't as it seems, and that there is a deeper purpose behind their visit to the old house.

Dripping with atmosphere, the woods surrounding the house, and the town itself, seem to hold secrets that directly involve Hayden's past. Creepy townspeople seem to know more about Hayden than they should, and as they slowly reveal their sinister intentions for Hayden, the tension mounts.

A lost love, and a big twist expertly further the plot, and bring Hayden closer to oblivion and to a monumental decision that could affect the fate of the entire world.

This book glues you to the edge of your seat. The writing is powerful, with dashes of humor to lighten the tension at just the right moments.

One of the best sci-fi/horror/mysteries I've ever read.
Profile Image for T.M. Hall.
32 reviews
May 21, 2018
What the Woods Keep is a real high-tension page turner with a dash of humor to give relief from holding your breath from time to time. The setting of the woods adds to the mysterious and creepy feel of every page, and the aha moments are superbly satisfying. If you’re a thriller/mystery lover, this is a great new debut author to get hooked on.
Profile Image for Jess ✩.
425 reviews37 followers
July 6, 2018
I am definitely going to have an in-depth review on my blog soon, but this was amazing. I can't even express or fully form words to tell you how good this was, only that you need to put it on your radar.

Definitely one of my favorites of the year and that ending!! How am i supposed to survive
Profile Image for Jackie.
616 reviews40 followers
October 6, 2018
Dearly beloved today we mourn the result of a book with a perfect beginning that was quickly unraveled and left with so many loose ends you almost wish you could disappear into the forest yourself.

“What the Woods Keep” opens with so much promise giving us young woman who is trying to put the past behind her when she discovers that she has inherited her childhood home that she and her father fled after her mother’s strange disappearance. Upon her return she finds that things are just as strange as when they left only this time instead of having her mother to guide her she finds herself alone in the woods standing in the way of a prophecy that’s threatening to tear the world apart.

I loved the beginning it gave us everything from a disappearing mother who was already a bit odd, transcripts showing a father’s descent into madness as he chases the ghost of his lost wife, a daughter who scares everyone she meets including her therapist trying to get to the bottom of what led to her classmate’s “accident” and a spooky manor with woods whispering our main characters name in the night, but unfortunately that’s when things quickly turned from a good ghost story into a sci fi/mythology mess.

The entirety of the book is separated by moments of academic style discussion almost trying to ask a question of beliefs when it comes to certain events - is it science or the paranormal? This question is played around with with dna testing and the not so subtle references to blood while also having those moments mirrored with details that lean more to ritualistic/fantasy importance.

The middle and ending of his book throws as much as it can at the wall hoping for both the science and the supernatural to stick and not caring too much if it doesn’t. Everything happens so fast and with little real explanation and ends just as quickly without so much discussion as to what the hell happened. I’ve never seen a book end where this one does without offering even the slightest conclusion for the characters after what’s supposedly a monumental, apocalypse sized event.

This might just come down to me expecting more or at least something different from the book because there were so many great ideas that were shared here that I was hoping we could explore but instead we got this weird mash up that I couldn’t care less about but I will give a 10/10 for the Buffy references.
Profile Image for Lucia DiStefano.
Author 1 book19 followers
June 9, 2018
WHAT THE WOODS KEEP is a stellar debut from a stellar author. The minute I started it, I felt like I was in capable authorial hands as I read, because I actually got lost in the story and forgot there was an author at all! I loved walking alongside Hayden in the journey to find out the truth about what happened to her mother that fateful night a decade ago, and, in the process, find out the truth about herself. I loved walking alongside her even when I had to proverbially cover my eyes because I was afraid of what might happen next. (Can you say: “cliff-hanger chapter endings”?)

De Becerra has a striking gift for description and using the setting to create atmosphere. The novel is haunting and the place is a character of its own. I personally love books and movies where I’m often thinking, “Wow, that is CREEPY,” and there is plenty of that richness here. Lots of the surprising story revelations are the kind that would make you crawl out of your skin if they happened to you, and I love being in those stories!

And in all that isn’t embarrassment of riches enough, there are fabulous relationships here, between Hayden and her smart, vibrant best friend Del (who ends up playing a pivotal role in the story later on, in such a cool way), and Hayden’s swoon-worthy boy-next-door from her childhood, who turns out to have become quite hot while Hayden was away all those years.

I have a terrible sense of direction, so I have been known to get lost in the woods on more than one occasion, which is why I try not to venture into the forest all by myself. However, de Becerra’s WOODS are ones I am glad I walked into on my own…I loved every minute! And though I got lost while I was in them, I got lost in the right way: the world at large dropped away and I was all-in with Hayden and the sophisticated, nuanced, complicated mystery of her past and her self that she desperately needed to unravel. I felt like the Colorado woods of Hayden's childhood were calling to me, as they were to her!

I feel lucky to have read this gem in advance of its publication. Still, I can’t wait for its release so I can gift it to others!
June 12, 2018
This might be the first YA novel I've ever read, and I really enjoyed it! It had everything i'd expected from a novel of this genre: best friends, young love, coming-of-age drama, and a lot more too. It was impressively researched, mixing fantasy with science; deep-diving into various scientific/philosophical concepts throughout which added depth to the story. The writing was very clever, including witty dialogue and quirky one-liners and I enjoyed the film references throughout. The plot included plenty of twists and surprises along the way and kept me wanting to turn the pages. All in all, I really enjoyed this book!
Profile Image for Diabolica.
413 reviews51 followers
September 20, 2019
Honestly, this novel wasn't too bad, although the beginning was difficult to get through. The beautiful cover did help me read through the entire book.
Profile Image for Ariel.
2 reviews1 follower
August 13, 2018
I really think the author has tried doing something UNIQUE here. Now, this book may not be for everyone, but I hope a lot of readers give this a chance. I, for one, really enjoyed it! Hayden's first POV narration is immersive, and the way her strange mind works goes so great together with the menacing darkening atmosphere of this eerie world. I had genuine goosebumps and hair standing on ends when reading some of the creepiest moments in this debut. And can I say how much I freaking loved all the science/psychology interludes - how COOL. So, my verdict: don't miss this book!
Profile Image for Mir.
4,842 reviews5,003 followers
January 30, 2020
I only made it to page 30 on this one. Since I don't like either the characters or the writing I don't see much point in forcing myself on just to see if the woods/house/mystery part is interesting.

De Becerra's writing especially suffers from wanting to be better than it is -- too many unneeded similes and words used improperly. Some readers will not be bothered, but it distracted me too much.

These were all within a couple pages:

-"Schrödinger's cat" is not "elusive". (Oddly, this would have made sense if she had been describing her actual mother, who may or may not be dead, but she isn't, she's describing her childhood memories.)

-If footsteps are described as "frantic" the person should be frightened or hysterical. We don't get any sense (aside from the word itself) that Del is even moving quickly. She is described a line later as dolled up and eating a bagel.

-the woods erupted, forming a new clearing... As if a burning giant's foot had stepped down into the woods, the trees were stomped to the ground. This is not how an eruption happens.

Profile Image for Tara Gilboy.
Author 2 books46 followers
June 2, 2018
WHAT THE WOODS KEEP was the perfect way to start off my summer reading list. Part fairy tale, part science fiction, part horror, this novel takes the best parts of these genres and blends them into something completely unique, satisfying, and new. One of my favorite parts of this novel was the way it unfolded in layers, mixing Hayden’s narrative with other documents -- letters, medical notes, scientific journal entries, and transcripts -- each element offering a piece of the puzzle and leaving me dying to find out more. Super smart and spooky, this story kept me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. A must read.
Profile Image for Maxine Kaplan.
Author 2 books86 followers
May 4, 2018
This book was so. damn. good. Lush and creepy, with a totally unique yet totally relatable heroine. I LOVED the way this book pinned logic and science against fantasy and primal fear--and managed to find the common ground between them in a deeply incisive way. A fast, frantic, fascinating read. Very highly recommended for anyone interested in mythology, psychology, or just some good scares.
Profile Image for Kelly (Diva Booknerd).
1,106 reviews299 followers
December 22, 2018
Hayden Holland has lived an extraordinary life. The daughter of a renowned physicist, Hayden vividly remembers the wilderness of Promise Colorado, an adventure beside her vivacious mother into the neighbouring forest surrounding the Holland Manor residence. Until her mother disappeared, Thomas Holland impetuously relocating his daughter to New York.

Hayden has inherited the Holland Manor, her mother declared deceased in absentia and bequeathing the now abandoned estate upon rigorous conditions. Discover the possessions of Ella Holland within the stately manor. Use those possessions to destroy her heaviest burden and trust no one. Especially the ravens. The ambiguous testament is reminiscent of how Ella Holland prevailed, whimsically and surreptitiously, wandering into the forest instinctively and often compelled by a greater force.

Hayden now resides in Brooklyn and embarking on her first year at university, her mother is a continuing presence despite intensive clinical psychological therapy throughout her adolescence. Hayden experiences impulsive moments, perceived as a violent, neurotic child after an altercation at school. Thomas Holland is now a dishonoured physicist. Motivated by the disappearance of Ella, Thomas Holland is a conspiracy theorist, researching Germanic mythologies in particular the Nibelung since the loss of his university tenure. Unbeknownst to her father, Hayden is journeying home to Colorado with best friend Delphine Chauvet, a French Sengelease University student.

Hayden is an intellectual young woman, finding solace within scientific reasoning and thought. The disappearance of her mother rendered her relationship with her father as fractured, as Hayden was removed from the Holland residence and friend Shannon Reaser. Inseparable childhood companions. Returning to Promise is a demoralising situation for Hayden and although Delphine speculates that Hayden isn't forthcoming with information about the disappearance, she is a source of unconditional companionship. Delphine appeared suspiciously accepting of each new revelation, how Ella Holland disappeared within the scorched forest, the insistence of Thomas Holland of otherworldly intervention and the apparitional possession she scarcely remembers, compelled as a conduit to guide Hayden to uncover the burden placed upon her mother.

The mythology woven throughout the narration was enchanting. The Nibelung is Germanic and Old Norse referring to a mythical dimension of a supernatural monarchy declaring warfare. Upon her return, Hayden and childhood companion Shannon reestablish a tentative friendship, although his contribution as a potential romance for Hayden is underwhelming. His friend Santiago is enamoured with Delphine, creating an intense environment for Hayden and Shannon.

Atmospherically, Promise Colorado creates an impression of peculiarity and a religious idolisation of the Nibelung mythology as Hayden is coerced into a congregation of residents engaging in ritualistic, sacrificial bloodletting.

Katya de Becerra has created a deliciously and intensely sinister, an infusion of a contemporary and paranormal narrative entrenched with the atmospheric Colorado timberland. A wonderfully intellectual and exceptional read from a remarkable debut author.
Profile Image for Jorge.
3 reviews
September 19, 2018
I don't usually read this book genre, but I found WTWK to be a very enjoyable and fascinating read. Combining theoretical physics and sci-fi/thriller elements with Nordic mythology and family/friendship human aspects, it was a perfect blend of fast-paced action, teen charm and a dash of spooky.
Profile Image for trufflebooks.
254 reviews100 followers
October 19, 2018
4/5 STARS. This review can also be found on my BLOG!

While I don't celebrate Halloween, What The Woods Keep fits the theme perfectly and this novel was delightfully spooky!

After reading the blurb to this book, I was immediately intrigued because I'm really loving mysteries and thrillers. Complete shock and utter surprise though, when this book turns out to become an urban fantasy/sci-fi novel as well.

Firstly, thank you so much to Allen & Unwin Australia for kindly sending me this review copy at my request and the opportunity to interview the lovely author, Katya De Becerra, as well (look out for that on my blog!). It is such an awesome opportunity and I'm so happy that I expressed my interest in this novel to them.

Let's review!

Setting & Plot

As you would've read above, the protagonist Hayden inherits her mother's mansion in her hometown called Promise. I have to say that writing the setting and the premise of Promise was one of my absolute favourite things about this book. Katya wrote it so well when reading about this town, I could immediately imagine a very creepy, spooky town with dark forests and woods and the sound of the wind as if people were whispering secrets. It reminded me of Forks and Riverdale and it was so delightfully spooky.

The general plot of the book is Hayden trying to uncover what the meaning of her mother's will means. The will basically contained a riddle that she feels like she must solve after her mother disappeared and was declared dead in absentia (yo check out my latin skillzzz). I totally sympathised with this plot, I feel like if my mum disappeared and there was no logical explanation for her death or disappearance, there would always be that one slither of hope that you could maybe find her again. As she delves into the secrets her old mansion holds and also looks into her past and how that can somehow give context to all the new information she's acquiring, things start to get sinister. I can't say much more because I don't want to spoil but I honestly just loved this. For a thriller/horror vibe, it felt like there was quite a bit of action. Some of the scenes gave me chills and had me gasp or just confused that I really had to keep reading.


I really liked Hayden, I thought that she was a great protagonist and that her love for all things scientific and logical with her little repetitive quirks like with counting - was something I could relate to. I'm a secret science nerd and I learnt a lot of things reading this book. Hayden (well, Katya) would explain theories and laws so easily that anyone who has never had an interest in scientific theories to do with the universe or anthropology, could easily understand everything and connect the dots. Hayden's character was the (obviously) the most complex and I really enjoyed reading her way of thinking and how she developed throughout this book as she began to embrace that you can't always explain things with science and logic. The identity crisis she goes through I think is relatable to so many people who find things out about their family and themselves that they might've never known about and her thought processes and she overcame that were gorgeously enlightening.

The other main character we really get to know the most is Del. Delphine is a French girl who is also Hayden's roommate and closest friend, and I'll be honest, from the start I seriously suspected her. I was on my toes about it, I was ready for a huge scandal where she was in on it from the beginning - "Do I even know you? How can I know you say who you are?" - type of situash. I won't reveal whether that's true but she was, unfortunately, my least favourite character. She annoyed me quite a bit how she seemed to be pushing her girly and fashionista personality and activities onto Hayden. From being a tomboy as a child, I know the feeling of being forced to dress up when you'd rather be in more comfortable clothes. She was supposed to be Hayden's best friend but kind of just reminded me of...Ron Weasley. If you know Ron, you'll get it.

The romance in this book was just the right amount. The love interest is the boy next door that's all grown up and I feel like it's realistic that old childhood friends who had feelings for each other would totally be a little insta-lovey at a reunion. That would totally be me anyway. His character wasn't explored as well and I couldn't really get to know him, but it was good in a way because then the romance didn't take over the main plot or steer towards an unnecessary direction. Instead, it just helped to create that sense of nostalgia and the past that Hayden has obviously hidden away in the back of her head until she goes back to visit.

Writing & Media

I did not expect this book to be a mixed media novel and it was! It was awesome, I love mixed media novels and I was so excited to get to each different piece where instead of reading from Hayden's point of view, we read official documents, diary and journal entries, newspaper articles - I loved it all! It strengthened that sense of mystery and that eerie secret yet to be unveiled and gave me some awesome Illuminae vibes. The writing was really enjoyable as well, I thought it was easy to read and probably the only con of it was that a few times it sometimes felt like some of the lingo was trying too hard to sound 'hip' and trendy. I noticed that a few times there would be a new compound word like 'superfresh' or 'superadorable' (not accurate cause I don't have the exact words) but it somehow bothered that there wasn't a space between those two words. Either way, I really enjoyed the writing. The journal entries and articles etc were very distinct which made it even more mysterious and creepy and I liked that within the writing, each character has its own way of speaking and their own personalities.


I really enjoyed this book! It was so engaging and I didn't want to stop reading because things got so sinister and mysterious, the plot thickened more than my favourite Easy Mac and I learnt certain things I have never known or understood before. I would highly recommend picking this up especially if you're into some spooky reads at this time of year in the halloween season. I hope that you if you do read it that you get chills like I did and I'd love a spoilery discussion!

Look out for my awesome interview with Katya very soon,

Until next time,

xx Tracy


Thank you to Allen & Unwin for kindly sending me a review copy of this book at my request, in exchange for an honest review. The paperback was amazingly floppy and shiny and I was flailing for a good hour at receiving it.
Profile Image for Vicky Again.
587 reviews819 followers
September 22, 2018
4.5 stars

I spent a really long time debating whether I wanted to give this 4 or 4.5 stars, and eventually I gave up and just decided I wanted to round up because I ultimately enjoyed this, hence the 4.5.

What the Woods Keep is a dark, genre-bending novel which twists science-fiction, fantasy, mystery, contemporary, and paranormal themes all together into one explosion of a book. And de Becerra does a fantastic job of putting it all together without making it feel like a mess.

The premise and plot were all really interesting and engaging, and the transition from contemporary mystery to fantasy/paranormal to science fiction was all done really well. (If you've read it, think along the lines of Emily Lloyd-Jones' The Hearts We Sold because that has a similar style of genre-bending, which I also loved!)

I really liked how it flowed--it wasn't like it was changing gears on a car, but a smooth transition where the different genres mixed together, like adding food coloring to water. The mystery elements were still present when the sci-fi predominated, and the transition from fantasy to science fiction made sense and flowed nicely.

If I had to pick my favorite genre element in this, it would actually be the mystery, which is a huge surprise because science fiction is my favorite genre ever. But I feel like de Becerra did an amazing job in building the mystery and intrigue over why these mysterious occurrences in a small town are happening.

Hayden, the main character, narrates what's going on really well. Although I wasn't extremely invested in what happened to her and was more into the story for the physical plot and the mystery, I still think her introspection was top notch.

I was mostly apathetic to her relationships with her father and with her long lost childhood best friend, but I also didn't dislike it, nor did I mind when these scenes occurred.

I honestly just wanted more exploration into these facets of Hayden, but wasn't really able to get them due to the giant plot also taking place as de Becerra develops Hayden's character. It's definitely a lot to do at once, and the character interactions are where I felt de Becerra fell a little short.

I did absolutely love the structure and writing style. A lot of the chapters end in these short epistolary-like pieces, such as a letter or a scientific article or something else. I felt like these pieces actually contributed to the work and made it more whole, in a way.

I do have to note that if you're someone who gets really annoyed at using any sort of math/science references in literature, then you're probably going to dislike the writing style. A lot of the chapters start with a connection to a science or math principle, although most of them aren't super cliché like:

Every action has an equal opposite reaction. (aka Newton's Second Law aka something that does NOT mean your actions have consequences but rather that the force of the box on the ground equals the force of the ground on the box.)

So even though these were present and I do feel like they did misconstrue math and science principles a bit, I also didn't really mind. Take that as you will, because I am one of those annoying STEM people who are nitpicky about these types of things.

Overall, I had a great time reading and found the plot to be unique and refreshing with both its darkness and genre-bending. I'd say, if you're a fan of Emily Lloyd-Jones' The Hearts We Sold or Melissa Albert's The Hazel Wood , you definitely want to pick this up! Or if this appeals to you, because it truly is a great read!

Thank you so much to Imprint/Macmillan and Katya de Becerra for sending me an advance readers' copy in exchange for an honest review!

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Vicky Who Reads
Profile Image for Karlita | Tale Out Loud.
109 reviews78 followers
April 16, 2019
Actual rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

If you were like me who thought to watch Supernatural, starting from its pilot episode, and reading this book was the perfect combo, please do me a favor to do it in daylight. Because the moment I picked this book, I quickly sense that eerie atmosphere within the story.

Katya de Becerra lures the readers in with the mystery behind Hayden’s character who has this weird and odd personality. Not only the way how she has different colored eyes because that’s basically had science explained as heterochromia, but how her mom’s strange disappearing a decade ago promised a dark, creepy tale in it.

Every inch there is in this story gave a slice of horror. First, the setting of a quiet, small town with people who looked as if they’ll going to eat you alive for dinner started out predictable. But anything that has to do with the forest and a house in the woods easily creeps me out.

The cryptic messages from Hayden’s mom, blood dials, rituals and images that were vividly described and a bit too outré, I could literally visualize them on my head, didn’t escape my being extra spooked. Even the letters, patient’s appendices of Hayden, Arista Kazan’s notes, findings and Dr. Holland’s journals attached in some of the chapters were pretty spooktacular too.

As Hayden unfolds the mystery and truth about her mother, all things that she could make sense using science and physics changed because her father was right all along. This made the suspense grows steadily and the twist on the Nibelungs absolutely popped up on the pages.

The story also explores Hayden’s need to have that sense of comfort, to belong, where she found on her best friend Del. Even being completely opposite, their friendship became one of the highlights in the story—how Del didn’t leave Hayden knowing every supernatural completely freaks her out or how Hayden will do everything to save her.

And let's not forget about Shannon, Hayden's former childhood friend. It's not easy for her to trust and get along with other people. But with Shannon, she felt that there's nothing have changed, that's if he was not using her for the Institute.

When the story nears its end, the scenes went in high gear and completely turned my head in a mind-bending spiral. Hayden, knowing that she’s completely not human and going into a wholly different universe of the Nibelungs? I could have easily heard a pin drop.

Everything became too intense and before I know it, the story ended. Honestly, I want more! I need to know what happens to Abigail, to Hayden’s father and everyone in Promise. So, I asked Katya about this in an interview, which you can read on a post for today's What the Woods Keep blog tour.

What the Woods Keep is a plot-driven story about learning one’s true identity while discovering the unknown, punched with a deeply chilling vibe and consistent spine-tingling narrative. From the settings, characters, plot, storytelling, and even the title and cover itself, this book captured an excellent blend of science fiction, fantasy and horror.

I highly recommend this book to everyone. It's a great addition to your fall TBR.

***I received an eARC of What the Woods Keep from the publisher via NetGalley and this in no way influence my rating nor my opinion on this book.

Full Review at Tale Out Loud | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
Tale Out Loud
Profile Image for Lucy Resnik.
5 reviews1 follower
June 20, 2018
A fantastic new voice in YA lit! This book is indescribable and totally new and unique! If you're into atmospheric, smart, unusual books, What The Woods Keep is for totally you.

(Also, I've read an advanced copy and it wasn't yet finalized for internal design, but I'm sure for the actual final book, the design is going to be mind-blowing - because it's a meta book, so it's got documents in it as part of the plot, and.... it's difficult to explain - it's gotta be read/seen - it'll be awesome!)
Profile Image for Rena.
Author 7 books373 followers
August 28, 2018
I couldn't wait to read this book - a retelling of the Nibelungenlied? Yes please. And the book didn't disappoint. One of my favorite reads of the year so far! You can tell that the author's professional background shines through, and the book was the perfect mix of modern, ancient, myth and magic. It was creepy and spooky by turns, but I found it skated the edge of horror in just the right way (for me) and the reveal at the end didn't disappoint. Katya's prose is poetic and literary, but approachable. I can't wait to read what she writes next!
Profile Image for bre.
209 reviews28 followers
November 6, 2018
Ugh. I didn't love this one. I really, really wanted to. I found this such an inconsistent, clunky and frustrating book to read and, in all honesty, I probably would've DNF'd it if it wasn't The YA Circle book for October.
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