Following a major scandal at her New York private school, which lead to a psychotic break, Magda has been shipped off to live with her grandparents in a quiet Pacific Northwest town, to regain control, and cut herself off from the world she’s used to.
Rendered emotionless, and unable to feel, by her extremely high dosage of medication, Magda spends her days in a fog. The only solace she finds is in the beautiful hiking trails behind her grandparents’ cottage. All of this changes during one of her afternoon hikes, when a mystery boy quite literally fall in to her life. Magda’s curious wildboy, Bo, is steadfast and strong, but living in the woods means he has no idea of the normal world, how to socialise, or anything that Magda is accustomed to. Could Bo be exactly what Magda needs to start the next chapter of her life?
Meanwhile, a series of crimes start to break out in the area. Drugs are flowing freely around the town, and are said to be supplied by a man known as Dr. Goodnight, who everyone refuses to speak of. It’s not long until a body is found in the woods, very near to Bo’s encampment. Magda seems to be stuck in her own nightmare, and it’s only just beginning. She no longer knows who she can trust, or whether her mental health can cope with everything that is happening around her.
I have to admit, one of the main reasons why I was initially interested in What She Found in the Woods when I came across it on NetGalley, was that it was marketed to fans of Riverdale, which I am a fan of. But then I read the synopsis and was interested in it for what it was itself. As a YA mystery/thriller, I expected a slightly lighter version of the thrillers I am used to reading, but this story really packed a punch. I was not disappointed!
The way Josephine Angelini portrayed the issue of mental illness, and the stigma that comes along with it, honestly deserves a round of applause. She showed just how unpleasant it can be, and how insensitive others can be towards someone with mental health problems, including their own family and friends. Angelini also made it clear that even if you haven’t completely overcome your illness, that’s okay, and you shouldn’t feel bad, or be hard on yourself about it. It’s an on-going battle, and you will get there eventually, which I’m sure is something a lot of people really need to hear, and will find some comfort in.
Although the story isn’t full on from the beginning, watching the relationship between Magda and Bo grow completely makes up for the lack of thrilling excitement early on. I’m not usually a huge fan of romance in thrillers, or in books in general if I’m completely honest, but in this book it really worked. Their love for each other was so pure, and perfect, even though they were polar opposites. I found myself invested in their relationship, willing it to succeed, and honestly it was a joy to read.
There are so many aspects to What She Found in the Woods that there is never a dull moment. Moving on from the romance, let’s talk about the more exciting parts. There is the mystery surrounding the events leading to Magda’s breakdown, the mystery of why Bo and his family fled to the woods, and then the mystery of the murders and the illusive Dr. Goodnight. Each mystery individually gripped you, and had you begging for more information. There were twists and turns that I never saw coming, especially when I thought I had the whole story worked out. It was so frustrating, but in the brilliant way that mystery/thrillers are supposed to be.
The last half an hour of reading is so intense, that it will have you on the edge of your seat. I had gotten so attached to the characters, that I was actually nervous to find out how it would unfold, but I couldn’t stop reading! The ending of this book was so exciting, and was finished off perfectly, leaving no question unanswered.
As you can tell, I thoroughly enjoyed this reading experienced. I really didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did! This was the first book by Josephine Angelini that I’ve read, but I will certainly be checking out her other work. A massive thank you to NetGalley and Pan Macmillan for my copy. I give What She Found in the Woods a 5/5 rating!