Author: Emily Carroll
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: July 2014
Read: February 2015
Where It Came From: Library
Rating: 4.5 Cold Hands
Let me just say: This. Was. AWESOME. I’d heard from various sources whose opinions I respect that this was an amazing and damn scary graphic novel with beautiful art, and I finally got around to checking it out from the library earlier this year. (To save money/space/irritation about having bought books that turned out to be shitty upon reading, I’m trying this new thing where I check a book out from the library instead of running out and buying it right away, and then afterwards deciding if I liked it enough to buy a copy for my personal library.) It sat in my library book tower until I went to renew it online one day and saw that—GASP!—someone else had placed a hold on it and I had to return it in two days. And that meant: Kick into high reading gear! So I curled up on a bright, sunny day-off afternoon to dive in.
The book consists of five short stories (they get increasingly longer as the book goes on), and a short intro and outro. They are seemingly unrelated, except for the common thread running through them, as hinted in the title—the woods are always involved, and strange things come from the woods. Each story is deliciously creepy…not horror in a gory, in-your-face way, but more insidiously unsettling. Spine-tingling, hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck-standing-up kind of scary. The closest comparison in tone I can make is to those Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books that were probably the first experience many of us had with horror. The nerd in me absolutely loved the almost fairytale/folkloric slant to these stories—especially as related to the woods, that symbol of fear and the unknown from time immemorial. They’re stories that will probably leave you with questions. There are no easy answers or resolutions to be found here, which is absolutely fitting. The storytelling is deft, atmospheric—leaving you a little off-kilter, both anticipating and apprehensive of what will happen next. And the art! Beautiful. Graphic, bold, and seamlessly integrated with the text for an immersive story experience.
As I mentioned, I was reading this in the middle of the day, in broad daylight, with people home. As I made my way through the book, I thought the stories were creepy in that quiet, crawling, tingly creepy-pasta way, but I found myself thinking, “Well, perhaps I’d be as freaked out by them as everyone else if I was alone. Or it was night. Or something.” But then my dad suddenly appeared at my door to ask in his baritone if I wanted pancakes, and I jumped about 5 feet in the air. So…I guess I was subconsciously a little more freaked out than I thought. And then, when I went to bed hours after I’d finished the book, the images came creeping back and I suddenly felt very alone in the dark, wondering what might be lurking under my bed or outside my window…
Great read, and a quick one, too. You might tear through it really quickly, but I guarantee this is one that will stick with you. And that little coda at the end…so effing perfect. Love love LOVE. Highly recommended. And it definitely passed the test—I will certainly be buying a copy for my personal library.