The final book for April!
Thanks to Park Row Books for the free advanced copies in exchange for our honest reviews.
BEFORE SHE WAS FOUND – Heather Gudenkauf (out now!)
This was my introduction to Gudenkauf, and Chandra has had nothing but great things to say about her books. So needless to say, I was pumped to start.
Chandra’s Thoughts: 5/5 stars
I have been a fan of Gudenkauf since I read Not A Sound. There’s just something about her writing style that really resonates with me and keeps me glued to each and every word. I was actually surprised to find that this was a YA thriller – but it’s only YA in terms of the twelve-year old girls that are the main three kids involved in this creepy storyline. Outside of that, I did not feel that it read like your typical YA at all. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of YA books, and also psychological thrillers (as you all well know) – have them marry up and here we are folks!
There were definite Slender Man undertones that I thoroughly enjoyed along with a bit of sinister Mean Girls vibe. At the age of twelve, you’re going through that awkward stage, and if you’re not one of the “popular” people at school, then you are unfortunately a target for bullying and this is largely a big subject throughout this book. Are they really your friends? Why are they so nice one day and a complete asshole the next? Who can anyone really trust at that age? All of these girls have got something going on. Jordyn, the popular mean girl. Violet, the new girl that just moved into town and Cora, the townie who is quiet, bullied and just want to know what it feels like to have a friend. Enter the world of the internet and this can take bullying to a whole new level. It’s scary how much you need to try and monitor your children, but it’s impossible to track their every single move.
The book is written in various formats, text messages, police interviews, journal entries, etc. Personally, when this is done well (and it is here), I absolutely love this kind of format to read. And listen, this is a very somber, dark read. The issues within the book may be triggering for some people, or could be just a little bit too much. Wasn’t for me but I could see how possibly could be. I actually didn’t see that ending coming. It didn’t give me that overall OH SHIT moment, but I was definitely a bit surprised. I also appreciate that Gudenkauf doesn’t veer away from some cringe worthy scenes – uff that bathroom scene kinda got to me (yay!).
I don’t know if this is my favorite by Gudenkauf but I’m still giving it 5 stars because I absolutely loved the intricacy in which Gudenkauf pulled everything together. Unfortunately, this is also an all to realistic read.. and that’s pretty damn scary. (And I love it).
My Thoughts: 5/5 stars
It’s no secret that I’m absolutely fascinated with urban legends, especially ones like Slenderman. Gudenkauf brings us a suspense/mystery in a small town where three twelve year old girls get sucked into the town’s own Slenderman-esk urban legend.
The book starts off with a bang – a 12 year old girl getting brutally stabbed and her head repeatedly smashed on the railroad tracks as a shadowy figure watches on in the tall grass. This is only in the first few pages! We alternate between multiple perspectives throughout this book. Told in the form of police interrogations, text messages, online chats, journal entries, and more. The author unfolds the events leading up to the horrific attack by the train depot.
Cora was always a more isolated girl; not many friends and she seemed to become a target for bullying from fellow classmates, especially Jordyn. Violet moves to town and begins a friendship with Cora. When a class project on urban legends puts the three girls in a group together they begin to research the story of Joseph Wither. The town’s local urban legend about a young boy that disappeared by the train depot and has said to be responsible for multiple disappearances of local girls throughout the years.
When Cora enters a chatroom online someone claiming to be Joseph Wither begins talking to her. Giving her information that only he would know and telling her that they should go away together. The culmination of the events leads us to the night of her attack and I was not expecting the ending. Gudenkauf did a fantastic job throwing us off the trail on who actually did it. I guessed a few times and was completely wrong.
This is one of those books that’s terrifying because it is entirely realistic and possible. It is nearly impossible to keep track of what kids are doing online and who they are talking to. Impressionable young girls become easy targets for people and this is a prime example. There was one part that had me physically cringing and I love when a book can do this to the reader. I cannot believe I haven’t picked up a book by Gudenkauf yet, but that will definitely change!