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Girl in the Woods

Girl in the Woods

4.0 2
by Aspen Matis

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Girl in the Woods is Aspen Matis’s exhilarating true-life adventure of hiking from Mexico to Canada—a coming-of-age story, a survival story, and a triumphant story of overcoming emotional devastation. On her second night of college, Aspen was raped by a fellow student. Overprotected by her parents who discouraged her from speaking of the attack,


Girl in the Woods is Aspen Matis’s exhilarating true-life adventure of hiking from Mexico to Canada—a coming-of-age story, a survival story, and a triumphant story of overcoming emotional devastation. On her second night of college, Aspen was raped by a fellow student. Overprotected by her parents who discouraged her from speaking of the attack, Aspen was confused and ashamed. Dealing with a problem that has sadly become all too common on college campuses around the country, she stumbled through her first semester—a challenging time made even harder by the coldness of her college’s “conflict mediation” process. Her desperation growing, she made a bold decision: She would seek healing in the freedom of the wild, on the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail leading from Mexico to Canada.

In this inspiring memoir, Aspen chronicles her journey, a five-month trek that was ambitious, dangerous, and transformative. A nineteen-year-old girl alone and lost, she conquered desolate mountain passes and met rattlesnakes, bears, and fellow desert pilgrims. Exhausted after each thirty-mile day, at times on the verge of starvation, Aspen was forced to confront her numbness, coming to terms with the sexual assault and her parents’ disappointing reaction. On the trail she found her strength, and after a thousand miles of solitude, she found a man who helped her learn to love and trust again—and heal.

Editorial Reviews

“...a triumphant journey that ELLE readers found “beautifully written,” gripping,” and “brave.”
“Gripping...a must-read.”
Interview Magazine
“Compelling and intense... should be essential reading in dorm rooms across the country.”
Greil Marcus
“This is a very brave book—because there is an open wound in Girl in the Woods, and it never really closes. It becomes a new organ—of doubt, questioning—that remakes both the body and the mind.”
Bust Magazine
“...a bold story of a woman finding her strength and self-reliance that’s told with honesty and intensity.”
Ben Folds
“Brave and poetic. Aspen Matis is one of the few genetic writers.”
Ms. magazine
“Matis writes with a rawness that refuses to hold back...filled with small moments of awe...I was struck by how far she had come…she seemed years more mature than the young woman at the start of the journey. Girl in the Woods is a touching memoir that...unleashes clarity.”
Dover Post
“[An] excellent memoir.”
Cheryl Strayed
Mercy. I love this story.
Nicholas Kristof
“A lovely tribute to the healing power of wilderness.”
Lena Dunham
“Beautiful and so wildly engaging.”
AV Club
“Girl In The Woods is eminently compelling, and taken as a whole is a valuable portrait of an actual human’s experience that hides in a rape statistic.”
Leigh Newman
“A brave book by a brave wild child writer. Matis’s journey is more than a riveting trip up the Pacific Crest Trail, it’s a story of a young woman who won’t let anything -be it rattlesnakes or ignorance about the trauma of rape-stop her from rediscovering her own power.”
Pop Sugar
“...a story about the power to overcome a crippling emotional trauma...”
Shelly Oria
“Aspen Matis reveals wisdoms that are gems—bright and inspiring. This book will astonish you.”
Kenan Trebincevic
“Soulful, heartfelt, and transcendent. Girl in the Woods teaches us that writing is a way to heal, empower ourselves, and turn our worst experiences into beautiful art.”
Bonnie Nadzam
“Girl in the Woods is a breathtaking, gorgeous and profoundly wise book. I cried my way through it. Every young woman, old woman, man and boy should read it.”
Caity Lotz
“A mesmerizing journey from tragedy to triumph. Aspen shows us how any girl—even the once lost and disempowered—can transform herself and become the director of her own life.”
Bryan Hurt
“Told with exceptional beauty and extraordinary confidence. Matis is a once-in-a-generation talent.”
Abby Sher
“An important book of hope and healing.”
Alice Feiring
“With the pacing of a page-turning novel, Matis has written an emotionally honest, poignant and poetic debut memoir.”
The New York Times Book Review - Sarah Wildman
This is a younger, angrier book than [Cheryl Strayed's] Wild. The story is raw and immediate…and it isn't just a reckoning with trauma but also a reckoning with the self and an embrace of self-reliance. It's easy to imagine Matis becoming a hero to young women trying to find a means of navigating adulthood.
Kirkus Reviews
Finding redemption after trauma. Matis sets up the book as a narrative of salvation. On her second night at college, she was raped in her dorm room. Understandably devastated, she dropped out after her freshman year and decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, à la Cheryl Strayed in Wild. Matis periodically reaches back to her childhood in a leafy suburb of Massachusetts, the daughter of two Boston lawyers, to attempt to explain a nagging feeling of not belonging: friends at school teased her for the unfashionable clothes her mother bought her; the girls in her cabin at sleepaway camp teased her; her mother insisted on dressing her until she was well into her teens. Unfortunately, the author is repetitive ("It was a new day, a beautiful one, and I was the director of my life…"; "This time, I'd become the director of my life"), which causes the narrative to bloat (by nearly 100 pages). She also comes off as tone-deaf when she describes her journey on the trail, a trip funded by her parents: "The PCT would end, and I felt panicked. I'd be truly homeless, directionless"—though she also realized that she "could not return to the person she'd picked for me to be. My relationship with my mother trapped me in the identity of a child." Matis writes vividly of the culture of the PCT—the special treats the locals put out for hikers to find, called "trail magic," or the "trail angels" who host hikers in small towns along the way—and she is bold in her willingness to expose her psychic wounds. However, it's difficult to remain sympathetic to her struggles when she widens her frame of victimhood to include her feelings of unattractiveness, her efforts to pry herself from her mother's smothering grip, and her inability to put in contact lenses or swallow pills. A memoir of self-discovery by a young writer who still has more work to do.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

Aspen Matis is a writer living in Greenwich Village, where she's finishing her degree at The New School and working on a novel.

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Girl in the Woods: A Memoir 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
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