NON-SPOILER Mashup Review:
WILDER GIRLS by Rory Power
THE LYING WOODS by Ashley Elston
WILDER GIRLS was a really popular 2019 release, and although there are strong horror and dystopian elements involved, it is ultimately a thriller in my opinion. The book follows a group of girls who are quarantined at their private school on an island. They are surrounded by the deadly Tox virus that does disturbing things to their bodies. One of the girls goes missing, sparking lots of mystery about the island they are on.
THE LYING WOODS is definitely more mystery than thriller, as there is much more focus on a small-town mystery. It follows two timelines. The first is from the perspective of a teenage boy who is brought back to his hometown after discovering that the wealth his father (who has now gone missing) had accumulated was embezzled. The other timeline takes place about twenty years before and is from the father’s perspective when he was a young adult.
SO…DO I RECOMMEND THESE BOOKS?
If you are looking for more of a quick, entertaining read, WILDER GIRLS would be my pick for you. But if you are looking for a more interesting, shocking mystery novel, THE LYING WOODS would be more suitable. If you enjoy Karen M. McManus or Outer Banks, you’ll love THE LYING WOODS. But yes, I highly recommend both.
SECTION 1-OVERALL THOUGHTS:
“This was such a thrilling read! I never was super interested in picking this one up, as I wasn’t reading much around the time that there was a lot of hype surrounding the book. However, Rory Power’s new book caught my eye at the bookstore and I figured I should see what all the craze for Wilder Girls was about.
Ultimately, I was very impressed with this one. It started off decent but then really ramped up in the end, where it ended up being extremely addicting and fast-paced. I thought the characters were strong and easy to root for, especially for horror standards. However, I did think the resolution to everything was a little too open-ended, which is the main reason I couldn’t give it a full five star.
On another note, I did not expect the dystopian feel of the book, but I was pleasantly surprised with it. Honestly, I’m a little shocked the novel got so popular because it seems like something that would’ve been a big deal in 2013-14. There was a bit of a Maze Runner but with all girls feel to it.
Either way, I know Wilder Girls got mixed reviews, but I thought it was super entertaining, and would also make a great movie. I’m very curious to see what Rory Power does with her other work. ”
THE LYING WOODS
“Ashley Elston is easily the most underrated YA mystery writer. The Lying Woods is my second read from her, and it was another A+ read.
Like This Is Our Story, The Lying Woods was just such a well-crafted mystery novel. Even without a murder or action, the book was just so interesting and suspenseful that I felt so invested from page one. The mystery in this one was really unique, which feels like a rarity nowadays in YA mystery/thrillers. I thought the characters were extremely likable and relatable, and the dual timelines presented two stories I was equally invested in.
The mystery in this novel feels tame (and not in a bad way) I guess in comparison to extreme murder mystery type novels. Because of that, I wasn’t expecting to be blown away by reveals or anything. However, I was so wrong on that. Towards the end, there were times where things were alluded to that shocked me, but that wasn’t it. There were so many huge twists that had me floored, and they caught me off guard when I thought I had everything figured out.
I loved This Is Our Story, but I think I loved The Lying Woods even more. If people like Karen M. McManus, Outer Banks, Riverdale (w/o the cringe), etc. Ashley Elston is a must-read author.”
SECTION 2-MAIN CHARACTERS/NARRATORS
Hetty: Hetty is definitely a likable protagonist. She definitely isn’t the most developed main character ever, but for horror standards, she’s impressive. I think she was very easy to root for, and when she made mistakes throughout the novel, I felt bad for her rather than frustrated with her.
Byatt: I can’t say I was ever invested in Byatt as a character. We didn’t know much about her, and her only true purpose was to show another perspective of what the Tox has done to the world.
THE LYING WOODS
Owen: I found Owen to be a super likable, relatable main character. Ashley Elston definitely did her research with Owen, because he was just like a teenager in the real world, something that I feel is not always the case in realistic fiction. The sarcasm was on-point and made for some solid comedic relief. Anyways, I just felt super bad for Owen’s situation, where he was blindsided by his Dad who left him for dry by embezzling his money for all those years. I also found Owen’s relationship with his mother a strong point and have rarely seen a mother-child relationship so fleshed out. .
Noah: At first I didn’t understand the need for Noah’s perspective, as his story felt completely separate from his son Owen’s. However, it all gradually comes together and makes sense. As a character, Noah was definitely likable. He has gotten into trouble, but it’s clear his intentions have always been pure. The romance in his perspective is what really elevated his character for me though.
WILDER GIRLS: I thought the writing in this was pretty strong. The sentences in the novel were very short and blunt, not shying away from gore, tragedy, etc. There were some interesting formatting things to show the effects the Tox could have on the characters that I found creative. Also the pacing was pretty fast despite some droughts of no action, which can be attributed to that blunt writing style.
THE LYING WOODS: The writing style was really great in this one. The mystery was so well-plotted that it was impossible to predict but believable at the same time. The way the two timelines connected was one of my favorite elements of the story, and this kept the pace moving very fast as well. Although there wasn’t much action, the suspense and overarching mystery was so well-written that it never mattered.
WILDER GIRLS: There isn’t much, but it was just enough for this type of novel. I thought it was great to see a female-female main relationship, and although the love interest wasn’t the most fleshed out, I definitely found myself rooting for the main couple to work out.
THE LYING WOODS: The romance in Owen’s timeline didn’t really do anything for me, mainly because the love interest was pretty vanilla for me and I found it pretty predictable. The romance in Noah’s timeline, which takes place between Owen’s parents when they first met, was everything though. Noah and Maggie were adorable and I was extremely invested in their relationship. Their romance is definitely an endearing part of this novel that I did not expect.
SECTION 5-FAVORITE AND LEAST FAVORITE:
FAVORITE: THE LYING WOODS
LEAST FAVORITE: WILDER GIRLS
Reasoning: There are more legitimate reasons why I prefer THE LYING WOODS, but I truly think it boils down to it being a more impressive novel than WILDER GIRLS, overall. The characters are more fleshed out, the mystery is extremely well done, and the ending is way more satisfying. I do think the two novels are about equally entertaining, and WILDER GIRLS definitely has more action and a faster-pace. That said, I still thought the slow-burn of THE LYING WOODS set such a great, captivating atmosphere. Although my ratings for the books are about the same, THE LYING WOODS is definitely the better book, and clearly a hidden gem in comparison.
I hope you enjoyed this review and will pick up either of these reads if you are interested 🙂