The Woods Are Always Watching ARC Review // camping just got scarier

I’ve never actually been camping, but after reading this book I think it might be wise to swear it off.

TW/CW: abuse, depression, graphic descriptions of bodily injury, mentions of rape and murder, mauling, asthma attacks

Thank you so much Penguin Teen for an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Best friends Neena and Josie spent high school as outsiders, but at least they had each other. Now, with college and a two-thousand-mile separation looming on the horizon, they have one last chance to be together—a three-day hike deep into the woods of the Pisgah National Forest.

Simmering tensions lead to a detour off the trail and straight into a waking nightmare … and then into something far worse. Something that will test them in horrifying ways.

If you consume true crime cases with a morbid fascination like yours truly, then I’m sure you’re aware of several things. One of those things is simply this: women live in a more dangerous world than men. This was a book that played upon that fact with chilling clarity, taking direct inspiration from the horror/thriller films many of us know and love.

Josie and Neena are best friends, who decided on a three-day hiking/camping trip as a sort of “last hurrah” before Neena moves across the country for college. Immediately they start complaining because neither of them have ever been camping before! I also have never been camping before but if you think that I’m going on a camping trip with one other person for three days on a relatively secluded path, you are sorely mistaken. Let’s go bungee jumping instead. Anyways, the stress of insects and hiking and all that fun stuff eventually leads them to high tensions between the two girls. It was also a bit weird how they each would have random individual flashbacks just to give you information on the other girl. On the other hand, I did really love how Neena’s experience as the daughter of immigrants from Indian didn’t feel forced at all!

I was actually slightly scared to read this because it has low ratings on Goodreads, but this ended up being pretty fun. I will say that going in with lower expectations made me feel better about the novel as a whole, because the first half of the book is medium-paced. There’s strange pop culture references, a bunch of bickering, and more telling than showing. However, Perkins does a fantastic job of building the tension in the background, so by the time things really start rolling you’re already submerged in the oppressive atmosphere of the dark, twisty woods. It’s surprisingly brilliant how effortless she makes bringing the scenes to life look. Between that and the relatively entertaining drama, I was content to just anticipate the big turn for the worse.

all that being said, once this started going, it went QUICK.

Excuse my lack of eloquent writing but HOLY CRAP. I finished this book in a single day* and it was an absolute whirlwind in the second half. The amount of sudden brutality, thrilling chases, and terrifying situations is definitely on par with several horror films. Men are scary. Two girls alone in the woods with men? GOODBYE. Perkins doesn’t disguise the emotional stress that women really go through doing simple things because bad things unfortunately often happen for seemingly no reason at all.

*that’s good for me now. back in the day, i could read like 5 books a week and not bat an eye. ahh, those were the young, carefree days of 8.

Also, the way certain characters had their backstory revealed? Uh…no thanks. I understand that there’s a limited amount of ways to reveal these sorts of things without falling into cliches but it did pull me out of the immersion of the story. While the actual execution of the thriller parts were well-written, I have to admit that the ending did not impress me. This is a book that I think would benefit from an epilogue, especially considering how it ties you so closely to the characters, their friendship, and their future.

Overall, this was actually a really intense, thrilling ride. Yes, a lot of it was unrealistic, overdramatic, and unnecessary. But the tension and atmosphere kept me going until the very end. I’d give this a 3.5/5 stars, averaging on the higher side. You can add The Woods Are Always Watching to Goodreads, Storygraph, or preorder its release on August 31! Have you ever read a thriller set in the woods? Or seen a film on the topic?

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13 thoughts on “The Woods Are Always Watching ARC Review // camping just got scarier

  1. hahaha as someone who lives right next to the pisgah national forest, i may have to skip this one because i’ll be TERRIFIED to hike there. however, this sounds pretty good and im glad to hear you liked it! great review 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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