Book Review: In the Dark, In the Woods (Eliza Waas)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Quercus Children’s Books

Pages: 304

Release Date: April 21st 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

The woods were insane in the dark, terrifying and magical at the same time. But best of all were the stars, which trumpeted their light into the misty dark.

Castella Cresswell and her five siblings—Hannan, Caspar, Mortimer, Delvive, and Jerusalem—know what it’s like to be different. For years, their world has been confined to their ramshackle family home deep in the woods of upstate New York. They abide by the strict rule of God, whose messages come directly from their father.

Slowly, Castley and her siblings start to test the boundaries of the laws that bind them. But, at school, they’re still the freaks they’ve always been to the outside world. Marked by their plain clothing. Unexplained bruising. Utter isolation from their classmates. That is, until Castley is forced to partner with the totally irritating, totally normal George Gray, who offers her a glimpse of a life filled with freedom and choice.

Castley’s world rapidly expands beyond the woods she knows so well and the beliefs she once thought were the only truths. There is a future waiting for her if she can escape her father’s grasp, but Castley refuses to leave her siblings behind. Just as she begins to form a plan, her father makes a chilling announcement: the Cresswells will soon return to their home in heaven. With time running out on all of their lives, Castley must expose the depth of her father’s lies. The forest has buried the truth in darkness for far too long. Castley might be their last hope for salvation.

Review:

Wow. This book was just awesome.

It’s been a while since I haven’t been able to put a book down, but this was definitely one of them. I read it as an eARC on my phone, which I tend to read while feeding Little Moore, and I found myself looking forward to each feed just so I could get stuck back into it!

After enjoying Seed by Lisa Heathfield last year, I was really looking forward to another book featuring a religious cult, and this did not disappoint.

We see the story from Castley Cresswell’s point of view, a young girl with a father who speaks the word of God. She and her siblings are isolated from everyone else, and have only recently started going to high school after being found out by the authorities. Their fathers rules the home, using the fear of God to manipulate and control the siblings.

Castley has been raised to believe her and her siblings are destined to marry each other and live in heaven, and that everything to do with modern life and the outside world are sin, but now she slowly begins to question these beliefs, and the words of her father.

I liked the gradual realisation that happened within Castley – it made the story more credible than if she’d just decided sudden;y to disregard everything she’s been taught her whole life. It must be hard to question these things when you’ve known nothing else, but as she makes a friend in school, a new world of possibilities is opened up to her. After learning that the author was raised in a very strict religion herself, you can see why she wanted to tell this story, and I think her personal feelings of isolation really come through in Castley.

This is a really chilling read with plenty of page turning moments that meant I never wanted to put it down. The ending is tense and, while it resolves itself well, I really just want to read on with the Cresswell’s story, as I love the siblings so much (especially Caspar – I can see why Castley wants to protect him so much!) I’d love it if Waas continued this story, but I think I’d also read just about anything from her now.

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