cover image The Woods Are Always Watching

The Woods Are Always Watching

Stephanie Perkins. Dutton, $17.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-525-42602-8

Recent Asheville, N.C., high school graduates and best friends Neena Chandrasekhar and Josie Gordon, who are Indian American and white, respectively, decide to spend their little remaining time together embarking on their first-ever backpacking trip before Neena sets off for college on the West Coast. Heading into the Pisgah National Forest for three days with borrowed gear and a few tips from Josie’s older brother, the two quickly find themselves underprepared. When a fall into a sinkhole results in a gruesome injury that leaves Josie trapped, Neena must find her way back to civilization to call for help. Terrifyingly, their paths cross with two white serial killers, who prove even more dangerous than the terrain. Perkins (There’s Someone Inside Your House) crafts a lushly immersive natural setting, highlighting the tranquility of the Blue Ridge Mountains as her characters proceed through an escalating series of dire situations. Violence is quite present, from the teens’ brutal capture to mentions of Josie’s father’s death by auto accident, but Perkins doesn’t linger on gratuitous gore, focusing instead on establishing tension and emotion in this rapidly paced dark thriller. Ages 14–up. Agent: Kate Testerman, KT Literary. (Aug.)