BLOG TOUR: After The Woods by Kim Savage - Guest Post + Review + Giveaway

After the Woods by Kim Savage
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Release Date: February 23rd 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller, Realistic Fiction, Suspense, Horror
Rate: 4 STARS!

Synopsis: Would you risk your life to save your best friend? 

Julia did. When a paroled predator attacked Liv in the woods, Julia fought back and got caught. Liv ran, leaving Julia in the woods for a terrifying 48 hours that she remembers only in flashbacks. One year later, Liv seems bent on self-destruction, starving herself, doing drugs, and hooking up with a violent new boyfriend. A dead girl turns up in those same woods, and Julia’s memories resurface alongside clues unearthed by an ambitious reporter that link the girl to Julia’s abductor. As the devastating truth becomes clear, Julia realizes that after the woods was just the beginning.


“You think I’m a mess?”
“Together, you’re a mess. Alone, I think you’re fascinating. And a little bit of a mess. But mostly fascinating.” Kellan says.

Which is pretty much what I loved about After the Woods. That it was part messy, part fascinating, part chemistry, part understanding and entirely an adrenaline filled piece of magic!

Would you give yourself up to save your best friend? Would you throw yourself in from of an assailant – potentially ending your own life – just to let someone else get free? I mean, we all think we could, but would you really?

Well, Julia Spunk did. And after she got away, she became a hero. Of course, if she had been killed, she would have become that and a martyr, but still. Julia Spunk ran into the woods with her best friend, met a psycho gunning for her friend, sacrificed herself and 48 hours later, returned.

And now, almost a year after what has been dubbed The Shiverton Abduction, a body has been found in the woods. In an entire year, everybody has only told her versions of the truth; told her that forgetting was infinitely better than healing – but that’s not the way Julia processes. She needs to find things out for herself, to see and to question. And nobody gets that.

Because even though it all happened a year ago, as the blurb quotes, the Woods were just the beginning of her story.

For the most part, I loved After the Woods. It had just the right amount of craziness and adrenaline, mixed with complicated relationships, undeniable chemistry and broken people that I needed it to have. It was pretty much perfect, except for that ending. I mean, WHAT? WHAT WAS THAT?
There has to be more, right? Is there more?

I just finished this book today, and I pretty much have nothing to say except that this book is DEFINITELY worth reading – so go, pick up a copy! 4 stars!

Oh, also, just a quote that I loved:

“There’s something grounding about having a gym teacher straight from central casting screaming about dodgeball, the purest form of Darwinian selection in any high school.” 

When It Comes to Brave Girls in YA, One Size Doesn’t Fit All
by Kim Savage

When I started writing After the Woods four years ago, the big mainstream news story was about the arrival of fictional female heroines who could kick butt. Google “kickass YA heroine” circa 2012 and here’s a sampling of what you’ll get: 3/2012: Katniss Everdeen and Other Action Heroines!
WIRED 3/2012:    Hunger Games Star Shoots To Top of Action Heroine Hot List
NY Times 4/2012: A Radical Female Hero From Dystopia 

Any YA reader could tell you that Katniss’s physicality was matched by her wit and strength of character. But that wasn’t the angle getting play.

And here I was, back in 2012, writing a main character who was fit but not overly strong; no warrior trained in martial arts or carrying a crossbow. Who was going to battle a predator and then a whopping case of PTSD one year later. Julia’s survival would require a mental toughness that took quirky forms: obsessive note-taking, counting stars, and reciting math problems in her head, to name a few. She would make questionable alliances. Visit the mother of her perpetrator. Betray the hot boy. Ask exquisitely painful questions to reach the truth.

If Julia’s brand of courage is hard to understand, her best friend Liv’s is harder. Liv is the friend who left Julia in the woods. Where’s the bravery in that, you wonder? But Liv is hurting badly, and when the plot is set in motion, she’s at her tipping point. She’s done everything in her power to achieve freedom and has failed. She’s about to be caged, figuratively, literally, and permanently. When Liv sees a solution, she goes for it, even though it is unthinkable. Worse, she conscripts everyone around her to her get there.

Terror doesn't come in gradations. All terror is the same, whether its wrought by Purple Man, or Isis, or a predator in the woods, or someone who is supposed to love you unconditionally. It’s the way we respond to it is that varies. Julia and Liv are both fighting oppression, and they both prevail, bravely. There’s something healthy for the reader in stretching the limits of what they consider brave, and so worth rooting for. The new kind of brave girl hoves us out of our comfort zones and makes us identify with whatever courage she shows, in all its forms. She might be obnoxious, or cruel, or disguise her pain in socially unacceptable ways, but if being brave requires those things; well.

The best stories ask hard questions of readers, and leave our responses unformed for a while, until we’ve had a chance to ruminate on them. Would I sacrifice someone I love for the greater good? Would I let someone hurt themselves if it meant their torment would end? In the case of After the Woods, I wanted readers to ask themselves if they could be brave in the ways that Julia and Liv are, if it meant being free.

Maybe the time is right to reconsider what defines brave. YA consumers are sophisticated readers who understand nuance. They've been rooting for nontraditionally brave heroines for years (think of Lyra Bevacqua, whose deceptions keep her alive). I’m optimistic mainstream media will figure this out, particularly with the arrival of Jessica Jones on Netflix, a brave heroine with well-drawn fatal flaws.

There will be no Julia or Liv action hero dolls. The take-aways from my book are the questions that readers will be asked to consider. Most especially, what does it mean to be brave?

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Kim Savage is the author of AFTER THE WOODS, a debut psychological thriller for young adults coming on Feb 23, 2016 with Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Macmillan. Her second thriller for young adults comes from FSG is 2017. Before writing fiction, she worked as business journalist, pitching stories along the lines of “Stigmatized Properties: When Murder Kills Property Values”. You get the idea.

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