Best friends Neena and Josie spent high school as outsiders, but at least they had each other. Now, with college and a two-thousand-mile separation looming on the horizon, they have one last chance to be together—a three-day hike deep into the woods of the Pisgah National Forest.
Simmering tensions lead to a detour off the trail and straight into a waking nightmare; and then into something far worse. Something that will test them in horrifying ways.
Hi, there! I'm Stephanie Perkins, and I wrote Anna and the French Kiss, Lola and the Boy Next Door, and Isla and the Happily Ever After. I also edited (and contributed a short story to) a romantic holiday anthology called My True Love Gave to Me and its companion anthology Summer Days and Summer Nights. My most recent releases are horror novels—There's Someone Inside Your House, which was adapted into a film for Netflix, and The Woods Are Always Watching. I'm currently at work on my next novel, which has not been publicly announced yet.
I was very excited to read this one because I've read other things by this author and those books have been really wonderful. However, I was very disappointed because this book failed to deliver.
The good: Super creepy cover. Interesting characters, especially Neena, whose parents emigrated to the US from India. Two friends who want to go on an adventure together before they go their separate ways for college.
The Not-So-Good: Pretty much everything else. 1. Nothing much happens in this book for 100 pages. These girls have never ever been hiking before, and they set off to an unknown place and are ill-prepared for the rigor of the hike. Shades of Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, but only in the fact that they are doing something they have no business doing. 2. When something does happen, it is so unbelievable that I was rolling my eyes. Josie would have died from shock if this was a real life situation. 3. No motivation or back story is ever given for the villains. They just appear and are psycho. Then the end. 4. The book is way too short and there is just no development of the plot, the characters, or anything. I'm not sure why the GR data says it is 304 pages, it is 216 pages. We briefly get introduced to Neena's background and her motivation for going away to college and her parents' sacrifices for their family. But it is so brief and never explored fully. Josie is a blah character with no background. 5. The entire first 100 pages consists of bickering, whining, arguing, bickering, and more whining. They are both totally unlikable and I can't even figure out why they are friends or doing this hike. 6. There is a requisite semi-HEA and it is not believable at all. So many of the tropes with the villains, the girls, and their situation are cliched and overdone.
I just cannot recommend this book, it didn't give me the creepy vibes I was hoping for, it didn't scare me at all.
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book, all opinions are my own.
The Woods Are Always Watching was my MUST READ for October. After being denied an ARC I made sure I was the first in line for a library copy. I even got a hardback version rather than my usual Kindle preference so I would make sure I really sank in on the sofa the first rainy Saturday that came along in order to fully immerse myself in the experience.
In the immortal words of Charles Barkley, simply put this was . . . .
After loving both the print and film versions of There’s Someone In Your House I was soooooooo prepared for a slashy good time. But these gals were dimwits and (sorry not sorry for spoiling things), you cannot (a) run away from danger on a broken leg or (b) pull your very-not-athletic self out of a giant hole you are trapped in once your hand has been blown off. You probably can’t not go into shock or properly tourniquet yourself one-handed or shoot a rifle accurately or out muscle a bad guy when you can’t even hike a couple of miles in eight hours or various other things when you’re an idiot either, but it all happens here.
I’m all for gore and losing most semblances of reality in my B-movie type of horror, but this was simply ridiculous (™Ron 2.0). There was no character development (and no high body count to make up for the fact that the characters were so meh), no plot to speak of, clichéd bad guys, no edge-of-your-seat tension. Nothing . . . .
I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Perkins’ writing is so easy to fall in love with. Her snark and banter is always on point. Even though the main conflict doesn’t hit the storyline until 50% of the way through the book, I honestly didn’t care. Neena and Josie were so real and achingly fierce that I loved reading about their relationship and their pasts. The true joy of this novel was seeing how strong that friendship was.
The low rating has more to do with me than the book. I think I'm just at a place in my life where I no longer have patience for plots that rely on characters continuously making ridiculous decisions and one-dimensional villains.
I love stories that take place in the woods but this was just not for me. :(
Sign me up for everything this woman writes from here on out.
Two girls are going hiking. Unfortunately for these best friends, their inexperience and a few nasty secrets the woods are hiding are going to make for a bad time.
Straight away, you can feel the tension seeping in. The girls are BFFs but everyone knows misery loves company so their positive attitudes are soon transformed by pain, heat, exhaustion ... you name it. These two girls are not enjoying their first experience of hiking.
The beauty of this story is in how it takes this ordinary hiking adventure and makes it ominous. You really do get the sense that something is out there but you want to brush it off as irrational. The tension builds slow and steady until everything goes horrifically wrong and the terror latches on and refuses to let go.
The relationship between the two girls is quite fun, because you get the best friends whose friendship is tested by hardship. They're having a really tough time so its not long before they start snapping at each other and you begin to wonder if their friendship will survive the trip.
It's hard to talk too much about this one without giving things away, but safe to say I was hooked from start to finish. I was sucked into the atmosphere of this one, and it reads like a horror movie so I was easily able to see it all play out in my mind.
I'm pretty stingy with my 5-star ratings and the only thing that prevents this one getting it is the re-read-ability factor: so much of my enjoyment of this one was in the tension and not knowing what was going to happen, so I'm not sure it would hold up for a re-read. However it was a LOT of fun, so I'm gonna go ahead and call this one 4.5 stars.
Highly recommend for people wanting a short dabble in the horror genre. It's a simple, tense story filled with memorable moments that will leave you shuddering.
Her other YA Horror ‘There’s Someone Inside Your House’ was a nice start to these slasher novels that she seems to want to continue. Unfortunately that one was plagued by too much romance, revealing the killer way too early, and a reveal that was lacking. But I saw something there and I hope she finally delivers the 5 stars slasher novel I know she can pull off.
This book sucked. There is no other way to put it. Its suppose to be about 2 best friends, they just hurtled each other with insults the entire time. The first 130 pages is all about hiking and camping. I was like come on, get to it!! Then it finally did and how unrealistic!? I didn't believe a single thing that happened. And the moral of the story was that every man was out to get women? What? Not only is that stupid its pretentious. 0 stars.
Neena Chandrasekhar and Josie Gordon wanted to accomplish something big before each of them left for college. So they concocted a plan to hike and camp in the Appalachian mountains. With Josie’s brother, Win, training and coaching them for roughing it in the wilderness, it was sure to be an epic adventure.
And epic it was when everything that could go wrong did. And when things started going “bump” in the night, it would be an unforgettable three nights roughing it in the boonies.
The Woods Are Always Watching is a very slow read as the pace doesn’t make an uptick until the reader is at least forty percent invested into the story. Way too long for this reader’s taste.
The characters are shallow and not much can be said about them, except that the main characters just seemed so self centered until their own lives are at stake.
The storyline is easy to follow and it is written in Josie’s and Neena’s point of view. The plot is simple — the girls go hiking and camping and encounter dangerous obstacles in their adventure. But as far as believability, it was just a little too beyond believable. And the story was left open ended, leaving the reader to draw their own conclusions — not an ending that this particular reader appreciated.
Overall, a decent read and probably young adult readers will appreciate the given suspense and thrills better than me. An okay 1.5 star rounded up read for me.
I received an early finished hard copy of the book from Dutton Books through the Bookish First Raffle. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.
Thank you to Penguin Teen and NetGalley for sending me an eARC of this book! All opinions are my own.
CW: On page injury, gunshot wounds, gore, loss of a limb, kidnapping, mention of rape, mention of necrophilia, mention of child abuse and neglect, pedophilia
To celebrate the end of high school, Josie and Neena decide to embark on a backpacking trip in the Pisgah National Forest. However, when the girls begin to fight, they become distracted and find themselves in increasingly dangerous situations.
I'm not really sure how I feel about this book. It was entertaining enough for me to finish and was overall a quick read, but I found myself bored a lot of the time. The premise is great and I typically love horror/thrillers in wooded settings, however, this one just didn't do it for me.
For starters, we didn't actually get any action until about 50% in. Even then, it was slow and anticlimactic. I was a bit bored for the majority of the book and things only really picked up in the last 15% when the situation was beginning to resolve itself. It seems like Perkins was trying to build a lot of tension in this first half, but I didn't really feel any of it. I was never scared while reading, nor did I ever feel like we were building up to a big event or twist. A lot of the tension that the author attempts to build comes from Neena and Josie fighting for literally no reason. It seems like neither of them actually wanted to go hiking and the hike put them in a bad mood overall, leading them to start bickering. This didn't really add anything to the plot though. All I felt was annoyance at how fickle and fragile this friendship was (when apparently they had been best friends for years?). Overall, the book was pretty uneventful until that 50-75% mark.
Also, why on earth did these two girls who have seemingly never even gone hiking in a small park decide it was a good idea to go backpacking in a national forest? I mean, they didn't even know how to make s'mores. How did they get to the point of figuring out to make a fire for the s'mores, but not know how to make s'mores? This just annoyed me during the book, idk LOL. At one point they heard thunder and this was the conversation:
"What do we do?" "I don't know"
Well you better find out!
I understand that they were both 18 and their parents theoretically couldn't keep them from going...but come on. When I was 18, my parents wouldn't have let me go backpacking without an experienced camper/hiker with me. Especially not in a national forest where there have been MULTIPLE unsolved murders? Just because your big brother is an avid hiker and has equipment does not mean that he can give you some instructions (that you FORGOT) and you're good to go on a 3 day hike in heavily wooded trails in a national forest.
A lot of the book just simply wasn't believable. While this is a work of fiction, it seems like it is trying to read like realistic horror or true crime. It just doesn't work out like that.
There are a couple of things that really bothered me about this:
1. The delivery of our antagonist's backstory and the backstory themselves...if that's even what it was? I'm not sure if it was just an inner monologue from Neena and Josie making assumptions about their life, or if was actually a description of their childhood. There are points where our main characters are fighting with the antagonist and we go into these very odd descriptors of experiences that led to them becoming a killer. Those descriptions kind of implied that kids who are abused or experience trauma will wind up becoming criminals, which oversimplifies violent criminals and the path that leads somebody to commit a violent crime. These backstory was maybe a page long (reading on my kindle, so I can't be sure) and felt very out of place, so I would have preferred there to just be none at all.
2. We also have a few lines where they throw out the idea that the antagonist is homeless because they are smelly/crazy/a criminal? Homelessness ≠ bad hygiene. Homelessness ≠ being a criminal.
3. We have a lot of very sensitive topics being thrown around (rape, necrophilia, pedophilia) and I don't think they're dealt with very well. It feels like all of these topics are being thrown in for a shock factor and there is no effort made to have a broader discussion about them.
I feel like the author could have developed a much more fleshed out backstory for the antagonist. The feeding into stereotypes could have been easily avoided. The book wasn't that long, so there was definitely room/time to flesh out the antagonist more.
Overall, I don't think I would recommend this to others.
2.5 stars — Anyone who enjoys hiking or camping knows the freedom and beauty of Nature is always accompanied by a humbling and terrifying awareness of her cruelty and indifference. One missed signpost, a sudden storm, an accidental slip on a wet rock or ill-timed encounter with a Mama bear and her cubs, can be the difference between a fun adventure and waking nightmare.
Best friends and recent high school grads Neena and Josie embark on a three-day camping trip in the backwoods of the Pisgah National Forest as their last summer "adventure" before splitting up to attend college on opposite coasts. Neither girl has much knowledge about camping or the outdoors beyond a last-minute binge of Google research and lots of tips and advice from more experienced family members.
They approach this excursion with the casual confidence of young people who still have their entire lives ahead of them, vaguely concerned about things like bears and rattlesnakes and serial killers, but more as casual, teasing banter than anything else.
This gripping and gruesome little Young Adult horror novel is about what happens when our seemingly remote, joked-about fears of what might possibly go wrong on a trip such as this, suddenly turn into nauseating realities and the Camping Trip from Hell.
I didn't know this was categorized as Young Adult fiction until reading the first several pages. But while the prose itself definitely reads like YA, the language and subject matter were shockingly graphic in all the best ways, making this exactly the kind of fun, fast-paced, frightful Fall read I needed to kick off my favorite season of the year.
As with most books and films in this genre, I found the slow, spooky set-up far more suspenseful and satisfying than the predictable, blood-soaked climax. There are some wonderfully creepy moments scattered throughout the first half of the book guaranteed to give goosebumps to anyone who's ever dabbled in any kind of remote hiking or camping.
I'm a middle-aged gay man without any kids of my own, so take it with a big grain of salt when I say that author Stephanie Perkins writes about the insecurities and complexities of friendship between two teenage girls in a way that felt very intimate and authentic. She also writes with a raw and unflinching honesty about the exhausting vulnerability, the constant state of high alert, the unique set of fears that come from just being born a female in this world.
When things take an unfortunate turn toward the preposterous and far-fetched later on, there was already a strong enough foundation of decent character development to keep me caring about these two girls' fates and flipping through the pages to find out what happens next.
3.45 Stars, rounded down. For YA, this would be a SOLID 4-Stars, however for my 38-year-old self, this was a bit of a mixed bag, so I've settled with a solid 3-Stars! The title, and even the cover art itself, had me hoping this might contain paranormal elements, however unless I completely missed something, it read fairly straight-forward as a thriller/suspense. Neena and Josie have been the best of friends for years, but are now that they've graduated high school, they will be headed their separate ways by summer's end. On account of this they've decided to go on one last adventure together in a camping trip to commemorate their friendship. Unfortunately for them, camping isn't exactly an activity either girls are even remotely familiar with. Enter immediate drama! As the girls get tired and hungry, they bicker back and forth for a great portion of the first half, which honestly seemed to drag a bit. It seemed that there was some underlying animosity between the two that was very briefly addressed, resulting in palpable tension and an ever-present atmosphere of foreboding. As sunset approaches, the girls' anxiety heightens in their search for the perfect place to set camp. While doing so, they stumble across a tent that appears condemned, with nobody within earshot or sight. In fact, it seems any other sign of life ended at the campground parking lot, hours behind them now. At this point the 'creep factor' and action picks up, and the girls find themselves in a fight for their lives! I really enjoyed the book from that point on, and actually considered giving it 5 Stars (as far as YA books go), however the slow start simply could not go ignored, so I had to go with my gut and settled with an overall rating somewhere in between. Had the characters been a tad more fleshed-out, and some more background into the antagonist's motivations and actions been given, this could easily have been much, much better for me. Alas, it was almost too short, in parts. Regardless of how mixed my feelings were about this effort, there's no doubt Perkins is a fantastic writer and her books are always enjoyable. The only other book of hers I've had a chance to read is her previous release, There's Someone Inside Your House, which I absolutely LOVED! Even though this follow-up didn't exactly measure up, I firmly believe it would make an even better film! I recommend this to anyone looking for a brief, yet still enjoyable YA thriller. I can't wait to read Perkins' next release!!
Ugh I don't even know why I try with Stephanie Perkins and her attempts at horror YA. I HATED There's Someone Inside Your House. I was hoping this one would be better, but nope I HATED this too. It's like the book equivalent of really bad indie low budget horror movie. The main thing I disliked was that it's so unbelievable! I felt like it was just meant to be "horror" without any sense or reason or anything really. I also felt that there was little research done about this story so it was executed poorly.
The plot was basically non existent. Two girls decide to go on a couple days hike with zero experience. I don't know much about trail hiking, but my friend did the ATL once and there were many things I didn't find believable in the book. Firstly, you kind of have to train for it a bit. I don't think it's safe for someone who's never been camping and someone who went camping as a kid, and is borrowing equipment including hiking shoes! My friend had to break hers in and ugh so many things wrong with that already. Like at least try going on a day trip first before doing something overnight.
"The woods were secretive. Trees older than death and saplings younger than spring watched over the creatures that slunk and scurried between them. The trees concealed. Shadowed. Obscured...They knew everything that happened here, yet they did not takes sides."
Best friends Josie and Neena decide to go on a three day camping trip in the woods before they are forced to split apart for college. The next three days, however, is a test of wills, bravery, and the strength of their friendship in ways they never thought they would have to face.
I gotta say, the first hundred pages were a snooze-fest. Nothing happening at all except two friends with high insecurities wanting to do something they never have before and then the obvious fight that occurs between them. But after that? Oh boy, did it pick the hell up. I thought I knew what was going to happen, but I really had no idea the level of shit that would go down. And if you don't like blood and gore, DO NOT pick up this book. The author really doesn't leave things to your imagination.
And really, the most unbelievable thing in this book are city girls wanting to camp out in the wild with no internet, phones, or communication with the outside world when they haven't done it once in their lives. Talk about imagination here! XD
The ending was pretty solid and pretty ambiguous, leaving you to decide what happens next, which was surprisingly nice to read. An overall solid book with a decent plot that won't disappoint!
3.0 Stars This was a decent YA horror story that focused on female friendships rather than the "obligatory romance" that I normally see in Young Adult books. The setup was decent but I was never personally invested enough in the characters to get immersed in the actual story. I appreciated how short this one was because it didn't have a lot of fluff. So much better than the author's first attempt at horror.
The Woods Are Always Watching by Stephanie Perkins is a real deal thriller. Neena and Josie only had each other in high school. They are best friends till the end. Ride or die. But now highschool is over and they are going to miss each other so much when Neena leaves for college – two-thousand miles away! They plan one last hoorah: a three day hike through the Appalachian mountains. It is their first camping trip so they over prepare for anything that could possibly happen. The only thing they failed to prepare for is the other people who will also be on the same trail. This book is a slow start, setting up the characters and building up to a gory horror story that would make any adult cringe. Touted as a young adult read, I can only imagine the way this book will scare off young people from camping/hiking trips. I know I will sleep better tonight, in my home, in my bed, gripping my pillow tight!
Neena and Josie are best friends who bonded over their outsider status in high school, both abandoned by their old friend groups. Now, the two are facing a future without each other, as Neena travels to the West Coast for school. Desperate for a last-minute bonding trip together, Neena and Josie decide to go camping through the trails of the Pisgah National Forest. However, the trip was not as exciting as they anticipated, and the terrain is far rougher and steeper than they expected. But then Neena hears a sound in the forest and they get more excitement than they bargained for as Jodie and Neena fight to escape the woods alive.
“The Woods are Always Watching” starts off similar to Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail”, where the young, inexperienced girls hike an unknown trail together with some brand new camping supplies and only each other for company. But it all goes pear-shaped, very fast, and the teens are soon fighting for survival.
Both Neena and Josie are the kind of quirky, eccentric teenage protagonists that become instantly relatable. The two are desperate to save their relationship, faced with their impending separation. Of course, the friendship is also extremely honest and real, as the two teens quickly start to bicker and feud when left to their own devices in the woods. Right from page one, I cheered for both Neena and Josie, and wanted them to succeed, not only in saving their lives but also in salvaging their friendship.
The novel is not written in chapters, but instead in large sections, with the titles “Together” and “Apart”, to signify when the girls are traveling separately and, well, together. The largest section, “Together”, at the beginning, is nearly half of the book, and it details Neena and Josie’s initial trek into the forest. The sections are clearly labeled, and the narration alternates between Neena and Josie (also clearly labeled), so it is easy to follow.
Even those non-campers (like me) will get into this novel right away. The descriptive settings set an eerie tone, and I waited on pins and needles, knowing that something bad was coming. The anticipation was well worth it, when Willie and Lyman become known to the girls and a whole new battle wages. The ending hits with a punch, and I was left completely exhausted (in a good way) yet satisfied.
Well-told, with strong characters and a chilling setting, “The Woods are Always Watching” will have you looking over your shoulder and listening for those things that go “bump” in the night. Definitely a good campfire story- although I strongly recommend not reading this novel on a camping trip!
I had to keep reading even though I was very, very upset, and I'm still upset, and I . . . am not someone who watches horror movies, especially slasher types where it's not supernatural, it's just human beings being EVIL. But Steph's such an amazing person and her writing it so good! And I was so invested in these two friends and their struggles to do something different as a last hurrah before college, and then everything went horribly, horribly sideways and aaaaaaaaaaarrrgggh!
I didn't fully realize when I was going into The Woods are Always Watching by Stephanie Perkins that it was a horror novel. I guess MAYBE I should have gathered that by the cover, but I did not, and then when I started and found out where this book was going, I was very surprised. I love good horror so that wasn't a problem, but I'm not sure the characters or their age in this book were the ones for me. Neena and Josie start out being very whiny and they bickered a lot until the action finally started and then I couldn't put it down. I can't even tell you how many times I said "gross" to myself or how many times I shuddered/cringed, so the horror is definitely there. This went a route I would never have expected and there aren't any supernatural elements even though I kept kind of hoping for them. It had been so long since I read the synopsis that I didn't even remember what the book was about, so I went in with no expectations other than knowing the title and what the cover looks like.
I almost wonder if I would have enjoyed the book a bit more by reading it instead of listening to the audiobook which is what I did. The narrator Reena Dutt did a good job, and she definitely made me feel very panicky when the characters did, but there was something off about her cadence for me. That being said, it could be that my biggest issue overall was just the story itself and our main characters, but I also have a hard time thinking in terms of their age and how I acted when I was that old. I would honestly say that if you enjoy YA horror and thrillers then you should give it a shot, but just know it definitely gets dark and disturbing once the plot fully hits. I didn't realize this was a companion to There's Someone Inside Your House which I haven't read, and not sure that would have made a difference either. I didn't enjoy The Woods are Always Watching as much as I had hoped I would but judging by how fast I finished and that I couldn't put it down, I would definitely still read more books from Perkins, and I still plan on checking out There's Someone Inside Your House as well.
Thank you to the publishers for my advanced listening and digital copies of this book. All opinions and thoughts are my own.
I received an ARC from Edelweiss TW: broken bones, detailed on page injury, mentioned fatal car accident, flashing, lost limb, threat of necrophilia, threat of rape, mentioned abusive mother, mentioned rape of a minor 2.3
When two best friends decide to try hiking, it's supposed to be a bonding experience before college forced them apart. But things go down hill fast, and the two find themselves separated and hunted. Stuck with no way to communicate with the world or each other, can they get out of this alive?
I wasn't sure what to expect with this book, but it wasn't at all what I got.
The best thing about this book is that it has a lot of tension, and it's used well. The pacing is a bit slow, but Perkins knows how to keep you in dread. There are a lot of terrible implications about what's going to happen to these girls, and it definitely gets worse before it gets better. The whole set up of having these characters away from each other, with no way to warn the other, is a good one. And when it comes to twistiness, I'd say that works as well. Things are not cut and dry, and that helps even more with the tension. So in those way this book does succeed. I think there are some readers who will like it for that alone.
However- I disliked almost every minute of reading this book. It begins with the most needless drama I have ever seen, that does exactly zero for the plot. There is no reason to tell us these characters are best friends and then immediately pit them against each other. It doesn't even effect the plot, besides letting them think "she was right!" or "I'll prove her wrong!" once or twice. And that drama is the only plot for just about half the book. The thriller doesn't set until the second half- you just have bickering teens who are mad at each other for no good reason. It felt like this was meant to be a novella and Perkins was asked to make it longer so she made a lot of filler.
And the way that information is shared is just so... for lack of a better word, it's tacky. Information about these characters and their hang ups are bluntly delivered by the other character laying it with just barely enough context for it to have come up in the first place. And information about the antagonist, later, is delivered through some omnipotent near-supernatural look into the past that was strange and confusing.
Mostly, this book is completely ridiculous. It doesn't worry about making sense, or having realistic characters, not going way overboard with tropes or caricatures. So much of this is over the top and 2-dimmensional, and it was hard to take seriously right from the beginning.
I'm sure other people will like this book just for the thriller atmosphere, but it was completely not for me.
After consideration I decided to rate this book 3,5 out of 5 stars. Admittedly, it really isn’t a very good book and the plot is... weak. I agree wholeheartedly with all the other reviews on this book.
However, it was a thrilling read and I wanted to finish this book as much as I wanted to stop reading it. I felt phantom pains through my entire body due to the... graphic descriptions. It’s a love-hate relationship and I would not really recommend it, unless you love a gorey, gross book without a strong plot