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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.”
Posted September 18, 2012
This is one author who has, with this title, completely blown adult suspense right out of the water.
The scene is a boarding school - one of those ritzy places that cater to the wealthy children who seem to want for nothing and only care about themselves. These are also the kids who have the power to bully someone they feel is ‘less’ than what they are on the ladder of success and popularity. But when they meet up with Cally Wood, an extremely intelligent and sarcastic girl who transfers during the middle of her junior year, the rich kids at St. Bede’s realize they’ve met their match. Of course…the secret that Cally is hiding not only involves these school grounds set far away from civilization, but also involves a killer who has never been found.
A while back, when Cally was very young, her sister went with a friend to St. Bede’s to enjoy the summer at the closed school. On her third night there…she disappeared and was never found. Cally is offered a full ride to St. Bede’s years later because of this horrific incident and the school wanting to keep the whole thing quiet.
Cally has a rough life. After her sister disappeared, her father was struck down by a heart attack and her mother became a drunk, so she’s more than happy to leave home and head for the posh school.
When she arrives, she meets many - Freddy, a redheaded Class President; Sophie, who becomes her bff; as well as Jack, a highly stunning young man who is ambivalent to the fairer sex and doesn’t date. The two who make Cally cringe at first is her roommate, Helen, and Helen’s more quiet punk-rocker sister, Noel. Helen automatically gives off that vibe - she’s beautiful and everyone knows it, very wealthy, has hidden secrets, and is so fake when she smiles that she looks more like a killer than a teenager.
As Cally begins her new life, romance blossoms, gauntlets are thrown, but more frightening than anything else is the fact that ‘The Little Woods’ behind St. Bede’s seems to be the Bermuda Triangle. Not only did Cally’s sister and her young friend disappear here long ago, but now others are disappearing as well. When a puzzle box is delivered to Cally, the secrets begin to unravel and the school becomes a playground for a killer who wants to hide the past.
This is one of those very rare YA’s (heck, any genre, for that matter) that is a ‘5-star’ read. The writer offers a plot full of suspense, and characters coming out of the woodwork with such different personalities that the reader has no idea who the real culprit is going to be. The story never slows down and readers will want to keep this particular title on their home bookshelf so that they can reread it anytime they want!
Quill Says: A triumph for the YA market!
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Posted September 6, 2012
Templeman’s The littlewoods is slow in action but lovely to read. I mean, it is catalogued as a thriller but there is more of Cally goingon that the actual mystery. However, the suspense was good enough to keep mereading every single page until the end(because you too skip pages sometimes, don’t you?).
Ten years ago, Cally’s sister disappeared in St. Bede’sAcademy. Ten years later, Cally gets a scholarship to attend said Academy. Why?Well, the why is not important but what’s going on on-campus. A murder has justturned up and the love life of the student body is amiss.
Cally sets out to find out what happened to Iris (the disappearedgirl) and a puzzle box, drugs, cheating and a condom are involved (but not inthat order). Pretty much what border schools is said to be about but notovertly so.
By the middle of the book, I kind of had an idea what hadhappened to Cally sister but didn’t know it was going to turn out that way. Also, I was hoping thatsomething really sinister had happened but nope, the book is contemporary.
As per Cally, she seems to be very confused (and so is Jack)although I don’t totally get why if she is pretty, has a scholarship, the guy shefirst liked when she came to school…. Why the uncertainty, then?
Templeman does many references to things-I-don’t-know-what-they-arebut if you get them, hurray! I didn’t, but that didn’t stop me from enjoyingthe book. I guess I could’ve Googled it but was lazy.
What I didn’t like:the lack of normal or ugly people in the school. Did everybody need to be beautiful Templeman? I also didn’t like Callyinsistency in being different. Come on, are you going to tell me that you live surroundedby rich kids and you purposely enjoy standing out? Whatever. I liked Helenbetter.
Templeman is already working on her next mystery, The glass casket to be out in 2014. I’m keeping my eyes open.
Posted August 17, 2012
I don’t often read thrillers or horror stories but once in a while I
totally get an itch to read something scary. The Little Woods sounded
like it would fit the bill. It turned out to be a quick easy read but
unfortunately didn’t really satisfy my need for thriller and mystery.
I think maybe I have watched too many episodes of CSI and Law &
Order in my lifetime because this is not the first novel I have read
where I figured out “who did it” long before the end. Very early on it
was easy to determine the identity of the murderer of Calista’s sister
and half way through the book it was obvious why the same murderer
killed again. The only thing I was waiting for was the motive behind
the initial murders. But since I figured it out so early, the wait for
the actual reveal made me lose interest. I wasn’t a big fan of most
of the characters in this book. You just don’t learn enough about them
to develop a relationship with them. Sadly, I was also not a fan of the
main character, Calista. Her character seemed rather contradictory. She
sometimes comes off as an independent rule breaker that turns her nose
up at the popular crowd. This quality is the reason why I never quite
understood her decision to build and maintain relationships with the
popular girls at the expense of other friends that shared similar
interests as her. It just didn’t ring true. Also, Cali admits to
being a pretentious word snob. She uses a number of unusual words in
her internal dialogue. Although educational, this quality of hers
seemed forced. I think maybe it would have seemed less forced if she
had been using those words in dialogue with other characters. The
characters I did enjoy were Jack, Sophie and Chelsea. Jack was just all
boy. Fairly down to earth and “normal” and a little bit clueless.
Sophie was smart and my favorite moment in the book was her response to
Cali when she shaved her head. Then there was Chelsea. She was truly
the most mysterious part of this book. Every scene with her involves
great dialogue and/or creepy actions. In the end, you still don’t know
much about her. She is the one person that provided true mystery to the
story. This was just a meh for me. I haven’t read many YA mysteries
but out of those few I have read I would recommend Breaking Beautiful by
Jennifer Shaw Wolf or Every You, Every Me by David Levithan.
Posted August 12, 2012
Before I began reading The Little Woods by author McCormick Templeman, I looked it up on Goodreads and read a few reviews that expressed mixed emotions. Some of them gave high appraisal while others were more… harsh. Basically, I saw that there was a lot of 2-3 star reviews and I have to admit that I lie in that group of people. For one thing, before even reading the novel and just reading the synopsis on Goodreads, I noticed that The Little Woods is under one of those genres that I just don’t take interest in when I read them: Boarding Schools. Honestly, if they aren’t clichéd I don’t really mind them, but most of them are focused on drugs, sex and drama. Which is pretty much what The Little Woods.
Which proves that this young reviewer, makes smart choices for a teenager *la salute*.
However, the novel is split up into two different parts and I found that at the start of both parts they had these really deep quotes that did manage to snag my interest. And at the start of The Little Woods I did really like the introduction to how the main character Cally’s (Short for Calista) older sister disappeared after visiting the boarding school Bede Academy. It was really well written and I honestly really enjoyed it because I just assumed that the rest of the story would keep up that pace… and I personally don’t think it achieved constantly keeping up that pace. But I did like that Cally attended Bede Academy to get into a good university, which should be important to people her age.
Once we enter Bede Academy, I was glad there wasn’t the clichéd bullying of the new girl. Cally was out of place, but people such as her roommate Helen did befriend her, which leads to her becoming friends with Helen’s friends. However, I was overly annoyed that this led to Cally getting into smoking weed and ending up in a relationship with a guy named Alex who kept on trying to get in her pants and did bad things. There was a lot of drama in this novel and because of the immaturity, I couldn’t really be immersed in the novel the way I usually do.
But, I really did enjoy the mystery portion of the novel. With the roommate before her, Iris, disappearing. There is a lot of speculation as to what happened to Iris, but the most eerie rumor is that Cally’s now roommate Helen is the person who killed her. Drama aside, Cally does work hard at uncovering the strange notes that Iris left behind in an attempt to find out who killed the girl which leads to a major twist at the end of the novel that not many people could have possibly seen coming.
I would recommend this novel to fans of the novel New Girl, drama, and YA teen-fiction. While the novel didn’t exactly work for me (and it may just be because of my youth), if any of the above was die hard appealing than the Little Woods may just be the novel for you.
Posted July 25, 2012
I was not blown away by this mystery. For starters, it was not very mysterious. I figured out who did it pretty early on. Also, someone needs to burn the author's thesaurus. The characters were bland and one dimensional, and I don't think I liked any of them. The romance is just out of place, and the pacing is off. I doubt I'll be reading anything else by this author.
Templeman's use of the thesaurus made me want to gouge my eyes out. Seriously, she replaced words that did not need to be replaced. It's a common rule of writing (which is taught in introductory creative writing courses) that you never replace the word said because it blends into the background, and the reader doesn't even notice it. That way it doesn't get annoying and repetitive during the dialogue. When you replace "said" with a word like "expactorated," I want to throw a show. It should not be done. Furthermore, the ways Cally thought and talked were ridiculous. No teenager thinks or talks like that. Even intelligent teenagers don't use the words that Templeman tried to convince us Cally uses. It was pointless fluff.
I figured out who the guilty person was and who was being set up very early on, and that took away any suspense I may have felt. Of course, I didn't give a crap about Cally or any of the other cliched characters, so I didn't really care who died. I was kind of hoping they all would. Templeman tries to make her characters interesting and unique by having a girl who chews tobacco, and other ridiculous things like that, but it didn't make the character stand out. I can't even remember her name. I just remember thinking it was stupid (and disgusting) to have a supposed "rebellious" girl chew tobacco.
I'm not even going to talk about the romance because it irritated me more than the rest of the book. It didn't fit, and it felt like it was added to try to add some spice to the novel. God knows the novel needed spice, but the romance was just as awkward as the writing and the characters. It just seems like Templeman tries too hard and has no instincts at all when it comes to writing a story. She tries to fit puzzle pieces together that don't go together, and it comes out awkward, forced, and flat.
Overall, I'd avoid this novel. The writing is awful, the plot is terrible, and the characters are detestable. Templeman tries to make her characters and writing stand out, but all she does is annoy with her overuse of the thesaurus and her character's ridiculous traits. This is not a book I'd recommend to anyone.
Posted July 23, 2012
'The Little Woods' is a great YA mystery novel that takes the reader into the secret depths of high class boarding schools. We learn early in the book that our heroine, Cally, has suffered a devastating loss several years ago. Due to this loss, she is drawn to St. Bede's Academy, a private boarding school with ties to her past. Once at the school, Cally's new friends and classmates tell her about the stretch of woods outside the school that are rumored to be haunted. There's also the mystery of the girl who disappeared last semester - what really happened to her? Cally's curiosity about the school, the woods, and her classmates begins to deepen as she is drawn further and further into the history of the school and the secrets it holds.
After reading the description for the book, I was expecting more paranormal elements to be present in the book - but there really isn't much in that respect. The mystery of the novel is enticing and keeps the reader trying to figure out the truth - which makes the story a page turner. I liked Cally's character - she was strong and didn't hide from whatever she was afraid of. The rest of the story - the parts that revolved around her classmates and the general boarding school setting - seemed really cliched to me. They were the expected snobby brats who liked to party and misbehave and who also had tons of secrets and treated people like trash. The school looked the other way, of course, and seemed to have no real desire in what was actually happening on campus. These were expected and I found that they were so predictable to be boring and a bit of a turn-off.
The narrative of the novel was well written with a solid backstory that draws the reader in and preps for the mystery that is the main focus of the story. I had the bad guy figured out pretty early on, but the little twists that the author threw in kept me intrigued and interested to the end of the book. I highly recommend this for fans of mysteries and thrillers with a YA twist.
Disclosure: I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Posted July 23, 2012
Any time I see a book about a boarding school I am instantly interested. I don't know what the intrigue is for me. Maybe the idea of being a teenager and being away at a cool boarding school somewhere, or maybe it's the fact that there is always something mysterious that happens. Always secrets of some sort. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. In the case of this book, it was just okay to me. I felt that there was a lot of wasted space in the book with events that don't really factor into the plot in any way.
Cally is a character that I wanted to like, but couldn't. I just couldn't really connect with her at all. Inside her head she acted one way, but outwardly she was totally different. I get that she is kind of trying to be different and maybe rebel, and even to some extent trying to impress or fit in with others, but it all seemed very fake and lame to me. And I don't get why she is so intent on hiding the fact that her sister was one of the missing girls from ten years ago. She gets so worked up about trying to hide that from everyone. So many of the things she does just don't seem to fit with who she seems to be. She is also very obsessed with trying to figure out the mystery of what happened to Iris, the girl who disappeared. She gets to the point that she is pretty much becoming a mental wreck over it all.
Now the secondary characters weren't that great to me either.I didn't like Helen, Freddy, or Pigeon. Alex was a tool too. Jack was okay to me, he didn't seem like he really fit in there. He isn't one of the spoiled privileged kids either. Like Cally, he is there on a scholarship. I thought that Jack was probably the most real character in the whole story. Noel was an interesting character and although I can't say that I liked her, I didn't really dislike her either. Now Chelsea even though she isn't a huge part in the story was a character that I was intrigued by. I didn't know what to think of her. I had no clue whether to like her or hate her, or if there was something else going on with her.
Of course this is a mystery, and it did take me a little while to figure it all out, but not nearly long enough. It was pretty obvious in a hidden kind of way I guess. I have read a lot of mysteries, so when there are the typical elements of a mystery novel, I figure things out easy. I thought that the way that it all led up to it was still interesting and enjoyable to read though. I could have done without some of the ridiculous things like them just hanging out at the twins house, or some of the other random things that happen though. There seemed to be so much filler content that even with this being a relatively short book. I understand when things have something to do with the story later, but a lot of it didn't.
In general I think that it was a slightly creepy, interesting mystery. If you like stories that take place at boarding schools and have a mystery element to them, this will be an enjoyable read. I know that my review seems a bit negative, but I really did like the book. I just tend to have a hard time really getting into a book when I don't really connect with the characters at all. I think with more character development and skimming out some of the unnecessary events, this book would be really excellent.
Posted July 12, 2012
An engaging mystery that pulls you in, but isn't too scary.
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Disclosures: I received an e-galley of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.
My Overall Thoughts/Impressions: I went into this book not really knowing what to expect. I hadn't really seen any other reviews of this book when I first picked it up.
I was expecting a riveting mystery and I got that and so much more. This book was well-written and engaging, if not predictable. I will admit I went in with fairly low expectations and it did exceed my expectations.
However, it wasn't as compelling as many thriller/mystery novels I've read. I wanted to be swept away in the intrigue and the mystery, but something held me back. Something was missing to make this an exceptional read.
However, having said that, let me say that I really enjoyed this novel. It was well-written and sucked me in. And despite being predictable, there were some noteworthy twists that I did not expect that kept me tuned in to the story.
Cally was a hard character for me to relate to and I never really felt like I understood her, but I loved the way the story was told. I actually found her character very refreshing. She was definitely not a girl's girl and had no tolerance for frilly things. It was a nice and unexpected change from several other books I've read along this line.
Overall, this book was well-written, intriguing, and one that I thoroughly enjoyed.
In Summary: I recommend to fans of young adult thriller/mystery novels. It's not super scary, but there is enough of a mystery to keep your attention.
The Wrap-up: This isn't a book that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend. It's not my favorite novel in this genre, but it is a very good book.
Posted July 10, 2012
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The Little Woods is a thriller mystery with twisted suspense. McCormick Templeman totally had me fooled with who did it at the end. The only thing little about Templeman's novel is the "Little" in the title. This story is packed with nail-baiting suspense, eerie thrills, and a mystery that keeps you guessing till the end. Templeman has definitely created a different type of heroine with Cally’s character. Cally is somewhat clueless when it comes to name brand clothes and today's teen speak, but I can understand why Cally is kind of disconnected with the world around her. Her older sister and father died when she was six, and her mother became an alcoholic, which left Cally on her own. I thought Cally became a very responsible person due to her situation. Templeman has written a thrilling mystery with a “who did it” theme, along with so many nerve-racking, intriguing twists and turns that I didn't see this ending coming.
Cally is seventeen, and she’s had enough of her mother running out on her for months at a time on a drinking binge. So Cally decides she wants to go to the boarding school, St. Bede Academy. The only weird thing about this is, this is where her older sister Clare died ten years before while visiting a friend. But the reason why Cally wants to go to St. Bede is because it’s the last place her sister was alive, and she needs to get away from her mother. But what Cally doesn’t realize is that she'll end up in the middle of the mystery surrounding her sister’s death.
When Cally starts school at St. Bede she knows she’s different from these rich teens, and she also knows after the death of her sister and father and her mom's drinking she feels disconnected from people and the world around her. This doesn't stop Cally from trying to reach out and start a new life, and soon she’s in with mean, rich girls and a gorgeous guy that all the girls want.
Cally's romance had me going crazy…but a good crazy. She starts going with Alex, who's gorgeous and rich. Even though she really likes Alex, she also has a strange attraction to Jack. Now I'm going to stop here with these two guys because I don't want give any spoilers. But I will say that I understand why Templeman ended things the way she did for Cally. It was the right thing for her, but I have to tell you that I love Jack. For me, he was just a great guy, and when he realizes he’s in a messed up situation, I thought it was great how he felt for Cally, and I wish it could have went the way I wanted it to go.
The Little Woods is a chilling, eerie, thriller mystery with very dysfunctional family's that leads to dysfunctional teens. But it's also Cally’s time to heal. I recommend The Little Woods as a unnerving creepy read.
Posted July 10, 2012
The Little Woods is a wonderfully crafted mystery. Haunted by the disappearance of her sister several years earlier, Cally enrolls at the fancy boarding school that borders the woods where her sister went missing. Another girl goes missing and Cally gets caught up in the intrigue surrounding this new disappearance at the same time as she attempts to navigate the rocky waters of adolescence in the strangely rarified world of a hyper-competitive boarding school. Templeman's language is artful, and the emotional depth of the story is surprising. I won't spoil the ending, but it really got me. The Little Woods is a fantastic, well-written read - highly recommended, especially for fans of smart mysteries like The Secret History by Donna TarttWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.