The Little Woods

The Little Woods

3.3 10
by McCormick Templeman

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"With swift pacing and sure-footed plotting, a conventional murder mystery laced with a touch of creepiness, and an honest portrayal of hormones outrunning hearts, this is sure to attract a broad fan base," declared The Bulletin in a starred review.

Are the woods behind St. Bede's Academy really haunted, or does bad stuff just happen there? WhenSee more details below


"With swift pacing and sure-footed plotting, a conventional murder mystery laced with a touch of creepiness, and an honest portrayal of hormones outrunning hearts, this is sure to attract a broad fan base," declared The Bulletin in a starred review.

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.

Watch as Cally enters a world of privilege, weekend-long parties, high school romances, and... well-kept secrets. This page-turner will appeal to teens looking for a fast-paced thriller. Written in a voice at once gripping and crystal clear, debut novelist, McCormick Templeman, will take readers on a twisting and turning journey as only a "new girl" can experience.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up—St. Bede's Academy is one of the most prestigious boarding schools in California. It is also the place where Calista Wood's older sister, Clare, disappeared 10 years earlier. Half way through her junior year, Cally finds herself navigating the world of brilliant and wealthy teenagers at the academy on a full scholarship. Iris, a beautiful student, has recently and mysteriously gone missing, much like Clare. Cally thinks there may be a connection and she delves into the secrets of the school and the surrounding woods. "Sometimes it seemed to me that a fine curtain hung between St. Bede's and those woods, and that if I could only find a way through it….I could find Clare." Cally is offbeat and likable. The student body includes the typical cast of mean girls, hot guys, and provocative teachers that keeps the plot moving along. However, the teen cliques; love triangles; and wild parties with sex, alcohol, and drugs make the story feel like it has been done and done again. The ending is exciting but predictable. Purchase for libraries with insatiable mystery readers.—Mindy Whipple, West Jordan Library, UT
From the Publisher
Starred Review, The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, September 2012:
“With swift pacing and sure-footed plotting…this is sure to attract a broad fan base.”
VOYA - Nicola McDonald
Cally Woods lost her sister at St. Bede's Boarding School and the body was never found. Her father has died since then and her mother has gone a little crazy, and so Cally is all too happy to get out of her hometown when she gets an acceptance letter from St. Bede's. When she gets there, things do not seem so bad—until strange things begin bringing back memories of her sister. Cally cannot decide who to trust and who she should stay away from, as cops starts lurking and suspicion grows around her. The Little Woods begins by giving the reader the expectation that the book will be a haunting mystery. It falls short of delivering the heart-thumping scare and anticipation that mystery/suspense readers will expect of such a story. Templeton does, however, manage to weave in different continuous images and themes to push the story along until the pieces come together. The book will attract mostly mystery, suspense, and horror readers. Reviewer: Nicola McDonald
Kirkus Reviews
A quirky teen sharpens her sleuthing skills and endures boarding school drama as she attempts to solve mysteries old and new. Cally's sister Clare disappeared from the grounds of swanky St. Bede's Academy 10 years ago, and now, for reasons even she can't articulate, Cally has chosen to attend the prestigious boarding school herself. Arriving on campus midyear as a scholarship student, Cally struggles to fit in with her super-privileged classmates, who regularly flout administration rules--sneaking out after last bed-check for sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll--but adhere to a strict, self-created code that seems random at best. Cally quickly becomes obsessed with the disappearance of her roommate Helen's previous roommate, Iris Liang. When Helen, Cally and several other friends discover Iris' decomposing corpse in a cave in the creepy woods off campus, paranoia and rumors grip the school, rendering St. Bedes' typically hothouse atmosphere claustrophobic. Could Iris' death be connected with Clare's? How utterly unexpected! Meanwhile, Cally's eventful love life--she's caught between Big Man on Campus Alex and brooding, witty Jack--threatens to crowd out her attempts to resolve the girls' mysterious disappearances. Exposition-heavy and packed with credulity-straining coincidences and red herrings, the plot lumbers unsatisfyingly toward resolution. Quasi-supernatural murder mystery? Sexy teen noir? Boarding school bildungsroman? This mess of a novel doesn't know what it wants to be. (Mystery. 14-17)

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
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Random House
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File size:
3 MB
Age Range:
14 Years

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The last time I saw my sister we played hide-and-seek. My dad was still alive then too, and heart attacks were something that happened to other people. My mom wasn't drinking back then. Or maybe she was. It's hard to know when you're a kid.

We were supposed to be playing in the yard, but I knew Clare had gone inside. From my perch up in the oak tree, I saw her slide open the back door and sneak through. My dad was trying to find us, and I didn't want to be the only one playing inbounds, so I climbed down, darted across the yard, and crept in after her. I found her in the den, her pink Keds poking out from under the heavy curtains. I thought I might hide with her; we usually did that, but for some reason, that day it wasn't allowed. Sensing me, she pulled back the thick fabric, and meeting my eyes, she shook her head. Not today. Today I would have to find my own hiding place. She held a finger up to her pencil-thin lips, and then, closing her eyes, she drew the curtain, disappearing behind it.

It was ten years old, that memory of my sister, and the last one I had, though I knew there must be others somewhere. I must have stood behind the car waving as she and my dad drove off for California. I must have helped her pack. I must have at least hugged her goodbye and inhaled the scent of her for the last time--strawberry ChapStick mixed with soap. But I don't have those memories. I don't know where I put them.

That summer my dad had a conference to go to in Sacramento, and Clare had a camp friend nearby. The mother of this camp friend was a teacher at a boarding school called St. Bede's Academy, and my dad thought it would be great for the girls to have the run of the place while it was empty. How liberating, he'd said. He was always going on about how kids these days were too constrained, too protected, unable to roam wild and free like he'd done when he was a boy.

Whether Clare enjoyed the freedom was something we'd never know. On the third night of her visit, she and her friend vanished from their beds. Their bodies were never found.

My aunt Kim, my cousin Danny, and I were sitting at their kitchen table when I told them I'd been accepted at St. Bede's Academy. Kim looked up from her pile of bills and stared at me like I was an alien species. Danny continued munching his Cocoa Puffs.

"Tell me you're joking," Kim said, but she knew I wasn't. Mom had recently broken a six-month sober stint, and her appearances at home were becoming increasingly sporadic. Soon she would take off again, and I didn't plan on waiting around for her.

"You can't change schools in the middle of the year like that."

"Yes I can. I've already been accepted. Kim, it's a top school, and they're giving me a full ride," I said. "Because of Clare."

My aunt winced.

"That school?" Danny stopped munching and froze. "You want to go there?"

"It'll get me into a good college. Besides, I don't want to be home anymore."

"Cally," Kim said before taking a drag off her cigarette. "You can always stay with us. You don't want to go to that place. Danny, tell her she's being crazy."

Danny's eyes met mine. My cousin was a big guy--close to three hundred pounds--with eyes like mud. He was also my best friend. "You sure about this?" was all he said.

"I'm sure," I said, though I wasn't. How could I be?

Danny nodded and gently placed a hand on his mom's arm. "Cally knows what she's doing. She goes there, she could probably get into Stanford or something. Let her go if she wants."

Kim winced again and stubbed out her cigarette.

It wasn't that I needed permission--Mom had already signed everything that needed to be signed--but Danny and Kim were important to me. Maybe I wanted their approval. Maybe I wanted them to stop me.

But no one did stop me, and a month later, I took a plane down to California and a bus up into the Sierras. It was a gorgeous campus with rolling green lawns surrounded by a dense, rich forest of poplars and pines. The buildings looked like miniature castles, and for the first time, I felt incredibly fortunate to be given this chance. Maybe St. Bede's didn't have to be just my escape. Maybe it could be something more. Maybe it could be my opportunity.

I was met by Mrs. Harrison, the headmaster's wife, a sweet redhead with bouncing curls. She called me sugar and looped her arm through mine. When I'd spoken to Dr. Harrison on the phone, I'd told him I didn't want the other students to know about Clare. I didn't want to be that weird girl with the dead sister. I'd been her enough already. I wanted to be someone new. Dr. Harrison had seemed relieved--what headmaster wanted something like that dredged up after ten years?--but immediately upon meeting me, he offered his condolences and told me his office was always open. Then he handed me my orientation packet and pointed me toward my dorm.

My dormitory was called McKinley, and I was lingering in its dimly lit foyer, searching through my packet for my room assignment, when someone stepped into the hallway.

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From the Publisher
Starred Review, The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, September 2012:
“With swift pacing and sure-footed plotting…this is sure to attract a broad fan base.” 

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