Thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Young Readers for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: September 14th, 2021
Synopsis: Welcome to the decrepit Woodmoor Manor…where something in the woods is always watching. From the author of Scritch Scratch comes a chilling middle grade story about a creepy mansion and sinister creatures in the woods
All Ginny Anderson wants from her summer is to relax. But when Ginny’s father—a respected restoration expert in Chicago—surprises the family with a month-long trip to Michigan, everything changes. They aren’t staying in a hotel like most families would. No, they’re staying in a mansion. A twenty-six room, century-old building surrounded by dense forest. Woodmoor Manor.
Locals claim the surrounding woods are inhabited by mutated creatures that escaped a mad scientist over a hundred years ago. And some say campers routinely disappear never to be seen again.
When the creaky floors and shadowy corners of the mansion seem to take on a life of their own, Ginny uncovers the wildest mystery of all: there’s more than one legend roaming Saugatuck, Michigan, and they definitely aren’t after campers.
They’re after her. (Goodreads)
What Lives in the Woods may be a middle grade book, but it’s surprisingly scary, even without blood and gore. Twelve-year-old Ginny is a wonderful protagonist that readers will relate to. An Agatha Christie enthusiast, who’s determined to become a world renowned author herself, she’s smart, feisty, and while independent, isn’t afraid to ask for help. Thankfully she has her fourteen-year-old brother Leo, and Will, a fellow book enthusiast and summer resident of Saugatuck. The three of them make quite the investigative team who not only solve the mystery of what’s haunting Woodmoor Manor, but also come up with a creative and compassionate solution. I loved the relationship between Ginny and Leo. They may needle each other incessantly, but they’re also there for one another. The friendship with a slight blush of romance that grows between Ginny and Will is sweet and believable, and I enjoyed the trust they had in each other. The setting is very detailed and atmospheric with some delightfully spooky touches like the faceless mannequin in Ginny’s room, the creepy ballroom, and the mysterious ticking of and unseen clock that only Ginny can hear. The plot itself puts a creative spin on the haunted house trope, especially with the twist regarding who is behind the haunting and what their motives are. The conclusion wraps the current mystery up while leaving the door open for a sequel. Which brings me to my one and only criticism, not with the book, but with the title and premise. While there’s a legend of creepy creatures that live in the woods surrounding Woodmoor, that’s discussed, they’re not the focus of this story. I have a feeling they’ll be the focus of the the sequel, but they’re not here. Therefore I find the title, cover, and book description misleading. You may think I’m being fussy, but as a reader who takes these three things into consideration first, before deciding on a book, they matter. Obviously I’m not downgrading my rating because the story itself is perfection. It’s definitely one that if I weren’t retired, I’d be scooping up for my library’s collection.