When Calista “Cally” Wood, a high school junior, transfers to St. Bede’s Academy on a full scholarship, she hopes it will begin a new chapter of her life. Soon after her arrival she makes many friends (from the popular Helen to the excitable “Pigeon”), becomes the third member in a love triangle, and begins to find a place for herself in spite of her own quirks (for instance, she shaves her head!).
However, Cally learns the “little woods” surrounding the school holds many a dark secret. A girl named Iris vanished there a few months before…just as her own sister Clare, along with her friend Laurel, disappeared from St. Bede’s ten years ago. Iris is thought to be a runaway, and the other girls were assumed to have been killed. As Cally tries to piece together what happened to her sister, Laurel, and now Iris, a body is discovered in the woods. Closing in on the truth, she risks becoming part of the terrifying history of the little woods.
While The Little Woods (McCormick Templeman’s first novel) succeeds as a mystery story, it does have a few problems. Many of the characters are well done, but some feel hollow and flat; others are hard to tell apart. The love triangle seems forced, as if it exists just to satisfy the obligation of romance. In spite of these weaknesses, the story grows more gripping and the mystery of the missing girls keeps the reader hooked throughout the last half of the book. Many twists are thrown in, along with a creepy setting, and there is a strong conclusion and a nice wrap-up of questions at the end. While The Little Woods seems to struggle at first, it is well worth the read—a chilling but charming young adult mystery.