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Review: In The Dark, In The Woods

In the Dark, in the Woods - Phoebe Sparrow, Eliza Wass, Audible Studios

I received a copy from Netgalley.

The title caught my eye when I saw it pop up on Netgalley. (Though I have a vague memory of seeing it before when it was called the Cresswell Plot and kind of dismissing it because the cover looked terrible and a brief glance at the blurb, didn't really interest me, plus is was Disney Hyperion and I never get approved by them on Netgalley.) Second time round with a new title and a new cover got my attention right away (especially when it was on my Hatchette Children's auto approval list).

Once I started, I was pretty much hooked immediately. The plot was rather disturbing and it was quite an uncomfortable read, but impossible to put down. Castley and her family live in the woods, where their deeply religious father rules the roost with an iron fist. And some very bizarre religious beliefs at that. There are a handful of siblings, an older brother, Castley and her triplet siblings, and a younger siblings. The father believes they are there to suffer on earth and then live a perfect life in Heaven. They have their own scripture books. The father has paired off each sibling to make a "heavenly match".

Teenage Castley has lived this way her whole life and pretty much knew nothing else until the law found out and got involved forcing the children to go to public school. School is pretty much a nightmare for Castley and her siblings. At least Castley is starting to realise how backwards her father's religion is. For starters she's always been fairly happy to be paired with her older brother (whose name I have forgotten) but finally starts to realise just how wrong and icky that is. One of her brothers admits to kissing a random girl they know from school. Castley finds herself questioning more and more. When she and her sister are put in different classes when the new school year starts, Castley is paired with a boy in drama and begins to wonder more about normal teenage behaviour.

At the same time she's struggling to cope with her family's ways and their precarious financial situation which is practically non existent, they either steal or sell randomly put together junk, their father views it all in a "god will provide" way. But the family are constantly starving and punishments are getting harsher and harsher. And its more and more confusing for Castley. Especially when she starts getting more and more defiant and branching out. Some of the kids in her class are nice and friendly, others are complete jerks.

There's a fairly deep emotional impact as things on the religious front get more freaky and disturbing and she gets more rebellious and tries to convince her siblings they need to get away from their crazy father. Is she under the influence of "demons" as her family think or is she really finally starting to think on her own?

Castley shows an amazing level of character growth throughout and I loved her voice as the novel progressed from her wanting to fit in and be like the other girls, then finding her own personality. She went from any minute to being deep in thought to delightfully snarky and catty. Her strength was pretty damn amazing at the end of the novel.

While there was a lot of uncomfortable tones to the book, the narrative was very well written and completely absorbing. A very good read.