What the Woods Took

A Novel

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Pub Date Dec 10 2024 | Archive Date Dec 24 2024
St. Martin's Press | Wednesday Books


“A visceral, unflinching, and emotionally powerful horror novel...this is Gould at her most poignant and most electric.” –Ava Reid, #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Study in Drowning

Yellowjackets meets Girl, Interrupted when a group of troubled teens in a wilderness therapy program find themselves stranded in a forest full of monsters eager to take their place.

Devin Green wakes in the middle of the night to find two men in her bedroom. No stranger to a fight, she calls to her foster parents for help, but it soon becomes clear this is a planned abduction—one everyone but Devin signed up for. She’s shoved in a van and driven deep into the Idaho woods, where she’s dropped off with a cohort of equally confused teens. Finally, two camp counselors inform them that they've all been enrolled in an experimental therapy program. If the campers can learn to change their self-destructive ways—and survive a fifty-days hike through the wilderness—they’ll come out the other side as better versions of themselves. Or so the counselors say.

Devin is immediately determined to escape. She’s also determined to ignore Sheridan, the cruel-mouthed, lavender-haired bully who mocks every group exercise. But there’s something strange about these woods—inhuman faces appearing between the trees, visions of people who shouldn't be there flashing in the leaves—and when the campers wake up to find both counselors missing, therapy becomes the least of their problems. Stranded and left to fend for themselves, the teens quickly realize they’ll have to trust each other if they want to survive. But what lies in the woods may not be as dangerous as what the campers are hiding from each other—and if the monsters have their way, no one will leave the woods alive.

Atmospheric and sharp, What the Woods Took is a poignant story of transformation that explores the price of becoming someone—or something—new.

“Unsettling, raw, and absolutely terrifying. Gould tears open the tender, angry heart of teenage friendship and what happens when our loved ones fail us.” -Trang Thanh Tran, New York Times bestselling author of She is a Haunting

“A visceral, unflinching, and emotionally powerful horror novel...this is Gould at her most poignant and most electric.” –Ava Reid, #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Study in Drowning


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ISBN 9781250340672
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Average rating from 161 members

Featured Reviews

What the Woods Took is Gould’s best work yet! Her writing is incredibly atmospheric - I could feel the woods pressing in as the teens hiked deeper into the forest. Every moment was full of suspense, never knowing what was going to happen next.

The character development was superb - I could emphasize with and root for each camper individually as more of their story was revealed throughout the course of the book. Devin and Sheridan especially jumped off the pages, but I also really appreciated how much Ollie grew throughout their journey.

This was an incredible story of survival, friendship, and overcoming trauma. Gould handled all the subject matter sensitively and it’s clear a lot of research went into the story. I can’t wait to see what she writes next!

Thank you to Netgalley, Wednesday Books, and St. Martins Press for the e-arc in exchange for an honest review.

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What the Woods Took is the perfect read for those who love shows like Yellowjackets. I don't want to get into spoilers, the plot was well thought out and executed. The words flowed well together, connecting the characters, and everything in between. I absolutely enjoyed this!
If you're looking for a paranormal thriller mystery, look no further,

A special thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Publishing Group for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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I was blown away by this book. I’ve enjoyed Gould’s other works, so I had high expectations for What the Woods Took and wow did it deliver. The characters were wonderfully complex and flawed, which drew me into the story so I was already hooked when the real suspense began. Gould manages to explore multiple characters and their backstories while also doing an impressive job of what I guess I would describe as lore-building. It would have been very easy for some of the plot points in this book to have felt like a stretch (particularly the monsters), but Gould masterfully intertwines explanation and suspense to the point where every single thing that happens feels believable and also terrifying. The moments of horror were well balanced with heartfelt moments, creating an end result that captures both the pain and beauty of choosing to move forward after trauma.

I can genuinely say that this is one of my favorite books I’ve read in a long time. Thank you NetGalley for providing me a copy of this book.

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When I first finished this book, I had to put it to the side to decide what needed to be said. I went into this book excited for monsters and horror and gore, but what I got was this extremely heartfelt story about abuse, trauma, and the road you take after you've been so beaten down you've nearly given up hope. As someone who faced abuse as a teenager and suffered for years in silence with unresolved issues, this book hit home in a way I never would have thought possible from a book with inhuman creatures. I should have done taken the time to right this review months ago, but sadly, I wasn't brave enough and I worried my own emotions wouldn't do this book the justice it deserves.
The author introduced her characters and then over the course of the book filled you in on their backstory and it made it feel like you were meeting a friend and over the course of days you were getting to know them, understand their motivations and reasoning. The horror aspect of this story never outshone the relationships being built between characters and the building up these characters were doing inside themselves and with each other. The romance was also not too heavy and it felt earned instead of rushed and pushed in just for the use of the word "sapphic" (which has sadly been happening a bit too much in my experience). The relationships built in this book weren't only romantic either and even those felt earned. The author took her time giving you the backstory of each character, building the world they lived in, and even took her time slowly enveloping the reader in the deep dark woods and everything that lies within. You may want to scream at the characters to turn around and run from those woods, but you will find yourself staying up late into the night traveling and trying to discover their secrets.
I don't want to ruin this book for the readers who are going to stumble upon it, so I won't go into the detail I want to go into, but you should read this book if you enjoy horror, survival, thrillers, suspense, a touch of found family, and a beautiful healing journey. This book most likely isn't for the romance readers out there, but if you like a little romance with a lot of scare then it is perfect for you too. This was my last read of 2023 and it was one of my favorites. I still find myself thinking of these characters months later, relating to them in new ways, hoping for their strength on hard days... and if that doesn't say something about the talent of the author, I don't know what could ever do it.

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This is a survival story, this is a monster story but mostly, it’s a story about found family and how we can find them in the most unlikely of places.

I have gushed about Gould’s writing before – see my reviews on The Dead and the Dark and Where Echoes Die– gird yourselves, I’m going to gush again.

Gould takes the most unlikely of characters and molds them into the most remarkable of people. Each of them so incredibly damaged, and yet, their humanity and goodness shine through in the most brave and beautiful ways. I loved every single one of them throughout their journeys.

A little bit about the premise

Devon is ripped from her bed at her latest foster home and driven with Ollie to an unknown location to participate in an experimental wilderness therapy program, REVIVE. A 52-day trek into the woods with four other teens and two counselors that are barely into their 20’s.

Devin wants nothing more than to escape but the location makes this impossible. Forced to go along with the group, it isn’t long before Devon notices something off about the woods. A feeling of being watched and strange faces among the leaves. When the counselors disappear and don’t return, Devon and the other teens have to learn to survive themselves, certainly a challenge but the addition of something unnatural in the forest, stalking them, puts things in a whole different perspective.

Gould writes an extraordinarily atmospheric coming of age horror story that held me captivated and connected with every page.

The thing with Gould’s writing is that there are so many layers and I’m still peeling back those layers as I sit here thinking about what I want to say. This is an extremely early review and I’ve just read the last page. I’ll probably be back to rewrite but I wanted to say that I loved this story and I wouldn’t call it just a horror, or just a coming of age, or just a survival story … it’s so much more and I know my review won’t be able to capture that.

Poignant, terrifying, heart-wrenching, unforgettable

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It's official. Gould is one of my favorite authors.

I thought she outdone herself with her sophomore book Where Echoes Die, but she managed to exceed my expectations far more with this book. This has become my absolute favorite by her.

The creepy and atmospheric writing sending chills up my spine, the excellent banter and relationship the five teens form together through surviving the unimaginable horrors (Devin, especially, had my heart), the creatures with interesting abilities that psychologically destroy our characters every time they show up?? God, I absolutely ate with this book. I swear, this is gonna stick with me all year, and I cannot wait for this book to release so it can join her sisters on my shelf.

Overall, amazing book. I could gush a lot more about all the things I loved about this book, but I'd rather leave you to pick up the book and experience it yourself.

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This book was a thrilling, entrancing, horrific, beautiful adventure about found family, trauma, resilience, and how not everything is as it seems.

This is the first book I've read by Courtney Gould, and it will NOT be the last.

The characters are real, raw, and relatable. You love or hate them, or both. The rich prose adds so much depth and atmosphere, and like most books I give 5 stars to, I felt like I was part of the story, immersed in the environment.

I highly recommend What the Woods Took for anyone interested in Queer YA horror, enemies to lovers, dynamic characters, and a fantastically different antagonist.

Thanks to Wednesday Books and Courtney Gould for letting me read an early edition in exchange for an honest review.

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