The Woods Are Always Watching
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Page Count: 221
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Original Publication Date: 2021
Genre(s): Young adult, Suspense, Horror
Neena and Josie have been best friends all through high school. But the summer after graduation is coming to an end, and soon, Neena will be leaving Josie behind to attend college in LA. As a last hurrah, the girls decide to go hiking and camping in the woods for three days. But the further they go into the woods, the higher the tension rises. Josie is terrified of bears, but Neena is more distrusting of the strangers on the trails. And when tragedy strikes, both girls will be tested in horrifying, unimaginable ways. Two girls go into the woods, but do either make it out alive?
The Woods Are Always Watching is told in third person POV and follows best friends Josie and Neena. Immediately I disliked both girls. Then I started to extra dislike Neena, so Josie became my favorite by default. However neither character was really fully developed by the end of the novel. It was hard to believe these two girls are friends—they’re not very nice to each other, especially once they’re deep into the woods. If my friend treated me the way Neena treated Josie, we wouldn’t be friends anymore. Though I didn’t love either character, their anxiety and fear was palpable, and as bad things started happening, I could absolutely sympathize with them.
Though there are some horror elements towards the end of the book, I would say The Woods Are Always Watching is more of a suspense novel than horror, per se. It definitely did a good job of scaring me, though. I am terrified of bears and camping and the woods. I’m especially terrified of serial killers and men and being alone. So i was definitely on edge. However, I just couldn’t fully get into the novel.
Much of the story is inner monologue of Josie or Neena. They’re just hiking or camping, and when they aren’t talking to each other (which happens less and less as the story goes on), they are just bitching inside their own heads. And for a suspense or horror novel, I was just bored. I kept waiting for the bad things to happen and it just took too long. Once the scary stuff did finally come into play, it was scary and fast paced—but a bit too little too late. And it was incredibly unbelievable. I want this review to be spoiler-free, so I won’t name names or go into specifics, but what happens to one of the girls about midway through is just plain unbelievable. If I was in her situation, I would have died from pain/shock/blood loss. There is no way she did what she did. (If you know, you know.)
I wouldn’t say this is a bad book—some parts were enjoyable. I just yearned for more. More dialogue; More characters; More backstory; More horror; Maybe more realism. Perkins definitely knows how to keep me on edge, though. And even though I’ve never had even an ounce of interest in going camping, Perkins has deterred me 110% from ever doing it. Why??? Would would anyone want to camp in the middle of the woods?????? Especially two teenage girls who have never done it before and have zero self-defense skills??????????????? I’ll never understand.