The Box in the Woods by Maureen Johnson – 4.5/5

Most high school students have hobbies. Some play music. Some play sports. Some write , or draw or make things. Stephanie Bell solves CRIME’

– Maureen Johnson

Specifics:

Book: The Box in the Woods

Author: Maureen Johnson

Published: 27th April 2021

Genre: YA mystery / thriller

LGBTQIA literature: Yes

Publisher: Harper Collins

Pages: 335

My rating: 4.5/5

Blurb: (from Goodreads)

The Truly Devious series continues as Stevie Bell investigates her first mystery outside of Ellingham Academy in this spine-chilling and hilarious stand-alone mystery.

Amateur sleuth Stevie Bell needs a good murder. After catching a killer at her high school, she’s back at home for a normal (that means boring) summer.

But then she gets a message from the owner of Sunny Pines, formerly known as Camp Wonder Falls—the site of the notorious unsolved case, the Box in the Woods Murders. Back in 1978, four camp counselors were killed in the woods outside of the town of Barlow Corners, their bodies left in a gruesome display. The new owner offers Stevie an invitation: Come to the camp and help him work on a true crime podcast about the case.

Stevie agrees, as long as she can bring along her friends from Ellingham Academy. Nothing sounds better than a summer spent together, investigating old murders.

But something evil still lurks in Barlow Corners. When Stevie opens the lid on this long-dormant case, she gets much more than she bargained for. The Box in the Woods will make room for more victims. This time, Stevie may not make it out alive.

Fashions come and go but jawlines are eternal.’

– Maureen Johnson

Review:

Where do I start with this book? Maybe by mentioning that you don’t have to read the trilogy to understand this book.

The Box in the Woods is set during the school break from Ellingham Academy and before the kids have to return for their semesters. Stevie is invited to solve a mass murder that happened in the ’70s on a camp by it’s now owner who has named it Sunny Pines. He has his own selfish reasons – to make a podcast on the case.

The best part about the book is that it’s a standalone and there is no time utilised to set a premise. We are bombarded with information and our brains start ticking from the get-go.

It is an unputdownable thriller that takes us on an adrenaline-boosting ride. The narration in the book reminded me so much of BuzzFeed unsolved (100 points) and had my heart popping in the final few chapters.

The representation of the LGBTQ community is brilliant. We need more books with narratives like this. The character development isn’t a lot since it’s only a span of a few months but I did fall in love with Nate, Janelle, and Stevie’s friendship more.

Plus the book is set in a camp around a lake that has a TREE-HOUSE LIBRARY. The town of Barlow Corners sounds like a very cozy place for us bookworms to live in. The author did a brilliant job with the descriptions.

Also, the characters are so relatable, it’s embarrassing coming from a 24-year-old.😂

The only issue I had with the book was that the ending might have felt a little rushed but it was unexpected, nonetheless.

Thank you After-School Tales and Harper Collins India for the gifted copy in exchange for an honest review!

What I liked about it:

  • Fast paced and engaging writing
  • Brings back the best characters of the trilogy
  • Manages to make us laugh few times
  • The premise – CAMP in the woods was not just a ruse but essential to the story
  • Loved how the author described the teenagers of the 70’s and the current generation
  • There is no beating around the bush – the plot is rich with information to digest from the get-go
  • The last few chapters kept my anxiety on such a high level that MY CHEST HURT!

Things it reminded me off:

  • Chapter 4: Carson details the murders and the theories related to them. I could not stop myself from reading it in ‘Ryan Bergara from Buzzfeed Unsolved’s voice’ with the music of the show playing in the back of my head.
  • Page 206 :p : Read the journal entry in the voice of Stephan Salvatore aka Paul Wesley reading Dear Diary in TVD
  • The last two chapters: I imagined the total scene with Stevie as ACP Pradhyuman and the others helping as Abhishek and Daya as they unravel the mystery to the culprit and suspects in the end of every episode. :p

‘You can tell a lot about a person from what they read’

– Maureen Johnson

Check out my review of The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson to know how much and why I loved it. It also has a run-down of the truly devious mysteries.

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