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The Killing Woods

The Killing Woods

4.3 8
by Lucy Christopher

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The latest thrilling adventure from the author of the Printz Honor Book STOLEN -- now in paperback!

Ashlee Parker is dead, and Emily Shepherd's dad is accused of the crime. A former soldier suffering from PTSD, he emerges from the woods carrying the girl's broken body. "Gone," he says, then retreats into silence.

What really happened that wild night? Emily


The latest thrilling adventure from the author of the Printz Honor Book STOLEN -- now in paperback!

Ashlee Parker is dead, and Emily Shepherd's dad is accused of the crime. A former soldier suffering from PTSD, he emerges from the woods carrying the girl's broken body. "Gone," he says, then retreats into silence.

What really happened that wild night? Emily knows in her bones that her father is innocent -- isn't he? Before he's convicted, she's got to find out the truth. Does Damon Hilary, Ashlee's charismatic boyfriend, have the answers? Or is he only playing games with her -- the kinds of games that can kill?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Printz honoree Christopher (Stolen) returns with another tense and nimbly crafted psychological thriller. Last summer, Emily Shepherd's father, a veteran suffering from paralyzing PTSD, returned home carrying the corpse of Emily's high school acquaintance Ashlee Parker. Now he's on trial for Ashlee's murder. Though Emily believes in her father's innocence, few others do, and Emily's association with her father leads to her ostracism. The narrative alternates between the perspectives of Emily and Damon, Ashlee's boyfriend, who awoke the morning after her death hungover and with little memory of the previous night. Embittered by the death of his own father in the war, Damon blames Emily for the added pain of losing Ashlee. Christopher gracefully explores the agony of combat-related PTSD, its effects on its sufferers and their families, and the capacity for violence, while refraining from making the novel feel issue-driven. Despite the growing attraction between Damon and Emily, they keep their secrets and memories to themselves, investigating Ashlee's death separately, which maintains an intriguing duality. Two meticulously constructed voices assemble a dark and unnerving puzzle in this immersive mystery. Ages 14–up. (Jan.)
Children's Literature - Toni Jourdan
Emily Shepherd’s life is upended when her father, a war veteran, walks out of the woods with the dead body of her classmate Ashlee Parker in his arms. He is charged with Ashlee’s murder, even though he cannot remember committing it; he suffers PTSD related to his military service, and it seems likely that the evening’s raging thunderstorm caused him to mistake his surroundings for the war zone, perceive the young girl as an enemy, and strangle her. Beautiful and popular, Ashlee was dating the equally handsome Damon Hilary. Many questions arise from her mysterious death. Why was she in Darkwood? Did Emily’s father know Ashlee? Was he stalking her before her death? Emily has a hard time believing that her broken father could ever have done such a thing. He has been so quiet and withdrawn. Then she finds a sketch her father drew, of a deer being chased by wolves. The deer’s eyes are unmistakably Ashlee’s. Emily and her neighborhood friend Joe play amateur detective to seek out Ashlee’s killer. Meanwhile, Damon has questions of his own. In alternating chapters, he works through a blank spot in his memory from that night. He thinks that he was the last person to see Ashlee as they played a dangerous game of chase with his friends in Darkwood, but he cannot seem to locate her pink game collar or her cellphone. Emily and Damon become unlikely allies as they come to consider a scenario that no one sees coming. Set in the woods at night and involving a life-changing secret, this murder mystery is a riveting story of teenage games gone wrong. Christopher’s use of alternating chapters occurring at the same point in the story timeline enables readers to follow two protagonists on their tremulous journeys. All in all, this is a very well written thriller. Reviewer: Toni Jourdan; Ages 14 up.
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2013-11-20
This taut, psychologically realistic murder mystery knits trauma, danger, tragedy and hope into one cohesive tale. In a horrifying opening scene, Emily watches her father return from the forest carrying what looks like an injured deer but turns out to be a girl--dead. Dad's having a flashback to the military event that gave him PTSD. As a soldier, he'd accidentally killed a civilian; did he kill this girl, Ashlee, as well? Ashlee's boyfriend, Damon, awakens hung over the next morning, confused that Ashlee's not in his bed. They'd been in Darkwood the night before with his mates, playing the Game. Ashlee gave Damon hallucinogenic drugs, and he can't remember how the night--or the Game--ended. Damon and Emily alternate chapters in distinct first-person voices. Damon's traumatized by Ashlee's murder and his father's military death; Emily's devastated that her sometimes-violent yet "scared of everything" father--possibly innocent--is pleading guilty to manslaughter. Darkwood's thick forest, high peak and leftover war bunker make a vivid setting. Readers will be riveted by slow, potent reveals about the rough nature of the Game, Ashlee's insistence on danger and adrenaline, and what happened that night. The answers hurt, but they feel right and they make sense. A sprout of hope at the end is fragile and unforced. A gripping, heartbreaking, emotionally substantial look at war wounds and the allure of danger. (Mystery. 14 & up)
From the Publisher


*"A gripping, heartbreaking, emotionally substantial look at war wounds and the allure of danger."--KIRKUS REVIEWS, starred review

"[A] tense and nimbly crafted psychological thriller."--PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

Praise for STOLEN:

"Complicated and beautiful -- it left me doubting my emotions and missing a place I'd never been." --Maggie Stiefvater

"All the tension of lightning, all the terror of thunder. A stunning, scary, and beautiful book." --John Marsden

*"An emotionally raw thriller...a haunting account of captivity and the power of relationships." --PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, starred review

Michael L. Printz Honor Book

ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults

USBBY Outstanding International Book

School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Emily Shepherd looks out the window in the early morning and sees her father carrying something through the woods. A deer? No, it's the body of a teenage girl. And Emily knows her: it's Ashlee Parker, a classmate, and girlfriend of football star Damon Hilary. Emily's dad, who suffers from extreme post-traumatic stress disorder, is accused of the murder, and it is up to her to find out what really happened in the woods that horrible night. The first two-thirds of the story is taut, suspenseful, and very intense: characters are revealed in complex layers, and the woods take on an eerie personality of their own. Teens will read voraciously, seeking out answers and the truth, instantly recognizing Emily and Damon as unreliable narrators. However, the novel gets bogged down with repetitious dialogue and descriptions. In the early chapters, Christopher dribbles out details in deliciously tantalizing ways, but at the story's midpoint, the author withholds too much, and the plot begins to move at a snail's pace. At the peak of the action, intensely exciting moments are broken up by mundane details that kill the lightning-fast pace. Ultimately, though, like Chris Lynch's Inexcusable (S & S, 2005), this is a fascinating discussion of teen violence, self-denial, and conspiracies of silence. And even though readers will likely guess the culprit before the protagonists do, they'll still be hanging on to every word until the end.—Laura Lutz, Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City

Product Details

Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.50(d)
HL660L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 Years


Meet the Author

Lucy Christopher's novel STOLEN was named a Printz Honor Book by the ALA and received England's Branford Boase award and Australia's Gold Inky for best debut. In a starred review, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY called it "an emotionally raw thriller...a haunting account of captivity and the power of relationships." She is also the author of FLYAWAY, a novel for younger readers. Lucy lives in Monmouth, Wales. Visit her at www.lucychristopher.com and follow her on Twitter @LucyCAuthor.

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The Killing Woods 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a book that you can't put down. I didn't really like the ending although I will say I didn't see it coming. It was such an addicting book and I finished in a day (I was super addicted) But seriously read this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
How amazing this book was. The detail used to describe feelings and thoughts is breath-taking. Every page takes you deeper into the mystery of a death, and not once will you ever want to put it down. I definitely suggest this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book im reading the one from my high school library though and only on chapter 30 i can say that this is the best book ever besides crash into you. First time reading Lucy Christopher book and it is amazing,she is an awesome author. Feel like im actually there. I feel the pain for Emily Shepard and how she doesnt want to admit that her dad may be a killer. Damon Hilary...after realizeing that he almost choked his best mate I predict that its what he did to his dead girlfriend Ashlee Parker. And he is willing to let Emily's father take the blame for what he may have done. -lovely princess
D-B1 More than 1 year ago
I received the suspenseful, mystery filled, well-written story The Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher free through Goodreads. The story is told in the first point of view through the eyes of two engaging characters, Emily Shepherd and Damon Hilary. Even though Emily's dad suffers from PTSD and carried a girl's dead body from the woods into the kitchen and is arrested for the murder of Ashlee, Emily is convinced that someone else did it and goes about trying to prove it. Damon and his friends had been in the woods with Ashlee that night partying and Damon can't remember everything. Read the highly recommended well written murder mystery with captivating characters The Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ToriatYABookQueens More than 1 year ago
NOTE: I received this ARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I received no compensation in return for writing this candid review on the product.  First off, I just wanted to say that this book is nothing like Stolen, Lucy Christopher's other book. I absolutely loved Stolen, and I probably wouldn't have ever requested this book from Chicken House on NetGalley if it weren't for the fact that Christopher's name was tacked on it. When reading this book, I hate to say that I expected more from Christopher, but I did. I expected to be emotionally invested in the characters, which didn't happen. The one thing that did happen was the imagery. The imagery in The Killing Woods, like in Stolen, is amazing. I could picture Darkwood in my mind like I was actually there. The details and precision in explaining Darkwood was just astounding, and it reminded me of why I loved Christopher's writing in the first place. But like I said above, I wanted to be emotionally invested in the characters. Well, I wasn't. In fact, I was pretty apathetic toward the cast. And after learning how Ashlee really died, I couldn't care less. I was pretty neutral throughout the entire book as far as feelings go. Also there was Damon and Emily, our two narrators. Yes, the book is in split points of views. I honestly liked Damon, to be fair. Emily? Not so much. I've decided that I only liked Damon because I felt bad for him. Sure, he shouldn't have been on drugs and all, but it would suck to not remember. Plus his girlfriend died. I had minor sympathy for him, but it was still there. Emily was a flat character without substance. I didn't like her at all. She was too soft (except when she tackled Kirsty), and she just didn't appeal to me as a "heroine." I found myself rooting for her to be the next victim. Simply put, she just really irritated me. And I guessed the murderer about 20 pages into the book. That isn't a good thing. I'm usually really bad at guessing the killer, so when I actually do, it must be pretty obvious. It just irritated me that this book was a murder/mystery/thriller, and yet I still guessed the killer before any real hints were given. It was just a bit too predictable. Something I did like about the book, though, was the creepy and ominous "Game" (okay, well, the Game ended up not being that creepy and ominous but the buildup toward the revelation regarding the Game was great!). I also liked the fact that I liked Ashlee less and less as the book went along. I love books where the main character(s) slowly uncover secrets about a murdered person. It reminds me of a scandalous Bones episode. In conclusion, I thought this book was okay. I'm not too overly excited about it, but I think it's worth a read if you liked Stolen. Just don't have your hopes up too high. I think I would've liked The Killing Woods a lot more if I hadn't read Stolen first.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was an amazing book! I love the way Christopher writes his books! Good book! Read it!(: 4.5 --M
TipsyLit More than 1 year ago
Some random blogger sent me this book for winning something somewhere. Had no idea what to expect. Blew. My. Ever. Loving. Mind. Christopher wrote another book that I’m dying to read called Stolen. It’s the letter from a sixteen-year-old girl to her captor after she’s abducted in an airport. Holy. Intense. How does Christopher sleep at night? Who cares. The Killing Woods was phenomenal. It only has 21 reviews on amazon, which shocks me, because Stolen has over 200 and this book really impressed me. I won’t tell you too many details because I just don’t want to ruin any of this intricate plot. Truly. Basically, a teenager is found dead in the woods and Emily Shepherd’s dad is accused of doing it. He retreats into silence. Emily knows he’s innocent. Bam. That’s all I’m going to tell you. The nitty gritty: Christopher writes from two different viewpoints: Emily’s, and the boyfriend of the dead teenager, Damon. The fonts are different, and each chapter changes viewpoints, so the change in perspective is expected and reads with a much easier flow than I thought. I never thought character hopping between two people could be that smooth. Plot: constantly moved forward. Always kept me guessing. It has an eerie, haunting kind of feel. As if you didn’t pick up on that from the cover. The final resolution surprised me, and I love that. It really all worked together well. There’s a lot of tension and unknowns in this plot, so I’m impressed with anyone’s ability to weave this all together. Characters: distinct. Great tone. Loved, loved them. Damon had the most jagged personality, and I really liked it. Downfalls: The back cover of this book is pretty much just an advertisement for Stolen, and it’s mentioned all over the place, which has nothing to do with the book, but I just had to say it, because it bugged me a little. Some reviewers have said this confused them, and I can see why they might think that, but I didn’t find it that way myself. I thought it was pretty straightforward. I read it while I brushed my teeth. ‘Nuff said. Five Big Fat Stars *****