Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Review: The Little Woods by McCormick Templeman
Release Date: July 10th, 2012
2012 Random House Children's Books
Ebook Edition; 336 Pages
Genre: Fiction / Young Adult / Mystery
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
3.5 / 5 Stars
Are the woods behind St. Bede's Academy really haunted, or does bad stuff just happen there? When Calista Wood, a new student, arrives midway through her junior year, St. Bede's feels like a normal school . . . until she discovers that a girl had disappeared a couple of months earlier. Some kids think she ran away, others think she was murdered, but it's only when Cally starts digging around that she finds the startling truth.
The Little Woods is one of those boarding school novels that I seem to be very drawn to reading, and although the world/setting created here was totally cliched, I really liked it. Perhaps in my younger days I would have loved to have attended one of these schools, although I would have also been a scholarship student and not one of the 'rich' crowd, that's for sure. Anyways, the descriptions of the campus and the dorms were pretty detailed and gave the reader a pretty good sense of the school in general; it was definitely a very competitive and elitist school.
I'm of two minds about most of the characters in this novel as many of them seemed to have different sets of morals, one for themselves and one for others. It seemed to be okay for one group of people to do things, such as fool around behind other people's backs and to do drugs, but it seemed to be different for other people to do the same things, and these people were often shunned or shut out. I wasn't sure what to think about the morality of these young people, even of Cally herself. I did like her most of the time, but I can't say I empathized with her completely as I didn't fully understand her. She tended to be on the lazy side and would rather rely on her memory gifts in order to achieve her marks instead of studying; and in the highly competitive world in which she found herself, she was no longer the really bright student anymore and her grades were often slipping as a result. And her reaction to the difficulties of her love life? It didn't really seem to fit in with her personality. I can't really explain it other than to say the whole love triangle felt off. Don't get me wrong though, I liked the characters and I enjoyed many of the interactions between them, but something always just felt off to me. Maybe it's because I work with this age group on a daily basis and their vocabulary (you have to check some of those words out!!) and some of their behaviours didn't necessarily ring true as normal teenagers.
The actual mystery didn't play a huge role in the novel, and I found it to be pretty predictable. While the overall plot was decently paced, the story behind Cally's sister disappearance didn't play a huge role and it was more about Cally finding her place in the academy and discovering who her true friends were amongst all the false friendships. There were also many other events that happened that seemed to come out of nowhere and I kind of went, when did that happen? or How did I miss that? And other concepts were created that seemed to really go nowhere and I was left at the end going, But what's going on with so and so? With so many secrets and untruths floating around, Cally managed to alienate people by asking too many personal questions and delving too deeply into personal things, but at the same time she unearthed things about herself she didn't necessarily like. There seemed to be a lot of self-reflection happening and I found that interesting. I do have to admit that the author's writing has a way of keeping you engaged in the story, even if the plot is superficial at best. She does this through her wonderful character development and I never really knew if the characters were on Cally's side or against her.
The Little Woods was an interesting look at another boarding school, and while overall, I enjoyed the novel, I did find some aspects to be somewhat distracting. I really felt that this novel had the potential to be really good, but it tended to fall flat in certain areas, mainly with the plot and the vocabulary and some of the characters, including Cally. For readers interested in novels about boarding school, you may feel differently about this novel, so check it out. Because I liked the style of writing in this novel, I am definitely going to check out her next novel, The Glass Casket, which is pitched as a twisted retelling of Snow White.