What the Woods Keep

Katya de Becerra

What the Woods Keep
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What the Woods Keep

Katya de Becerra

Katya de Becerra’s stunning debut combines mystery, science fiction, and dark fantasy in a twisty story that will keep you mesmerized right up to the final page.

On her eighteenth birthday, Hayden inherits her childhood home - on the condition that she uncover its dark secrets.

Hayden has tried to put the past behind her, and so far it’s worked. She’s getting ready for college, living in a Brooklyn apartment, and hanging out with her best friend and flatmate, Del. But now it’s all catching up with her: her mother’s mysterious disappearance a decade ago, her father’s outlandish theories about a lost supernatural race, and Hayden’s own dark dreams of strange symbols and rituals in the Colorado woods where she grew up.

As soon as Hayden arrives at her hometown, Del in tow, it begins: neighbours whisper secrets about Hayden’s mother; the boy next door is now all grown-up in a very distracting way; and Hayden feels the trees calling to her. And among them, deep in the woods, Hayden will discover something incredible - something that threatens reality itself.

Review

When Hayden was eight her mother, Ella, disappeared in the woods near their small-town home of Promise. Not long after, Hayden was expelled from school due to an incident, and her physicist dad was fired after trying to convince his students that Nibelungs (German fairy creatures) are real.

Ten years of homeschooling and therapy later, Hayden is living her own life in Brooklyn with her friend Del when she gets a call from her parents’ lawyer. Her mum – long since declared ‘dead in absentia’ – has left her childhood home, Holland Manor, to Hayden, along with the instructions to find her gifts and to finish what Ella started.

Hayden considers herself to be very rational and attempts to write these strange instructions off as signs of her mother’s fragile mental state. But when birds start dropping out of the sky, causing hidden memories to come crashing back, she convinces herself going back to Promise, and the forest, is the only way to solve the mystery of her mum’s disappearance.

When Hayden and Del arrive in Promise and strangers greet Hayden by name, the eerie small town seems like something straight from the sci-fi–horror films the girls adore watching. The mystery surrounding the town and who, or what, Hayden is deepens.

What the Woods Keep really is like a horror film: sleepwalking figures with glazed eyes frantically digging in basements til their fingers bleed; nightmares of being hugged by your missing mother before realising its her eyeless, pointy toothed corpse; ravens appearing at your window or flooding the skies above you … This is not a book you want to read right before bed! A great supernatural story with enough genuinely creepy moments to keep you up at night. For readers 14+.


Dani Solomon is the assistant manager at Readings Kids.

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