It’s a beautiful, sunny day. Callie Velasquez holds hands with her boyfriend Jeremy as they follow Callie’s new BFFs Penelope and Lissa up the trail. The four friends are embarking on a camping trip — a trip that immediately goes awry. They lose their way on the trail, and encounter a charismatic stranger with questionable motives. And when Callie stumbles upon a dead body, it becomes clear that the danger that lies in the woods is deadlier than she could have ever imagined. Tensions mount and friendships are tested as these teenagers try to survive the most sinister of circumstances.
Title: What Waits in the Woods
Author: Kieran Scott
Publication date: March 31, 2015
What Waits in the Woods reminds me of a classic teen horror movie. It has all the elements: teenagers end up stranded in the woods, there’s endless hiking, and an unknown person is coming after them. There’s even an urban legend of “The Skinner,” a hermit in the woods who skinned some campers alive a few years back. Lissa, Penelope, and Jeremy insist that The Skinner is real and that one person escaped to tell the tale.
Callie isn’t at all interested in camping or hiking, but she agrees to go along with her popular friends Penelope and Lissa because she’s more afraid not to go — to be excluded — than to camp in the woods. She’s thrilled when her boyfriend asks to go along, even though Lissa was hoping for a girls’ weekend. Things are going great at first, but it’s not long before Callie starts thinking someone is following them and hearing strange noises. As things escalate from there, the group finds itself lost without working phones and without much food.
There’s quite a bit of friend and boyfriend drama, but I was interested in each of the characters and in their relationships with each other. Callie’s recently moved to town, so she doesn’t have the history that the other three have with each other. Some secrets come out on the trip that she would rather not know, but now that she does, there’s no going back. All of this unfolds as the group makes its way through the woods, finally figuring out that they’re lost and running into a stranger named Ted who offers to take them to his cabin. They’re uncertain about whether to trust Ted, but they have little choice. They have no idea where they are or how to get back to the parking lot where their parents are to meet them in just a few days.
What Waits in the Woods is formulaic but manages to be intriguing and suspenseful. It hooked me immediately. I couldn’t help but keep reading to find out who was behind the mysterious laughter and what would happen to the group.