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What The Woods Keep by Katya de Becerra

On her eighteenth birthday, Hayden inherits her childhood home—on the condition that she uncover its dark secrets. She has tried to put her past behind her. She’s getting ready for college, living in an apartment, and hanging out with her best friend and roommate Del. But now, it’s all catching up with her; her mother’s mysterious disappearance, her father’s outlandish theories, and her own dark dreams about strange symbols and rituals in the woods of Promise where she grew up.

Hayden returns to her hometown, and it begins. Neighbours whispering secrets, trees that call her name, and deep in the woods Hayden discovers something that threatens reality itself.

De Becerra’s debut is a cracker. What the Woods Keep is dark, spooky and deals with some wonderful topics not often seen.

Written from first person point of view, Hayden’s, de Becerra tackles unbreakable female friendships and it’s refreshing to have a strong, independent female in control.

While there is ‘boy drama’, it’s not over-the-top or tokenism, Hayden is dark and mysterious, while also being logical.

Del, her best friend, is also a wonderful, well-developed character. The light to Hayden’s dark, she offers a great counterpoint. Their friendship becomes a pivotal part of the story, and as mentioned before, it’s refreshing to read such strong female friendships. Their friendship also acts as a nice balance to the other relationships within the book – the loss of Hayden’s mother, an estranged father, rekindling childhood friendships, while not forgetting Hayden’s relationship with herself.

Almost every chapter begins with Hayden discussing a scientific discovery or theory, explaining how it fits in with her life and what is happening within the story. De Becerra has certainly done her research for this book, with one of the main ‘characters’ in the book, the Nibelung, a fascinating part of mythology that she explores.

While the story did include some irrelevant pieces and took a little bit to get going, de Becerra’s debut is wonderful. It is a thrilling, dark story, blurring the lines between fantasy and mystery. While marketed as a ‘young adult’ read, it is a highly intelligent, complex read that will appeal across the ages.

Like the woods of Promise, this story draws you in before slowly, and dramatically, revealing its secrets.

Reviewer: Rebekah Fraser

Allen & Unwin, RRP $18.99


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