Reviewed by Jena Lohrbach (Muse Book Reviews)
The word that’s run through my mind since I started The Hanging Woods: Sociopathic.
From page one, the narrator is clearly someone I wouldn’t want to run into. Ever. All the main characters are unhinged. Jimmy, with his abusive dad, has grown into a mean adolescent. Mothball’s the fat kid who gets picked on. He seems pretty mild-mannered, but then he decides to try to break the record for the world’s longest-lived headless chicken. (That means he has to cut the head off a chicken but leave the brainstem intact. As you might imagine, he’s not successful on the first couple of tries.) And Walter, our narrator—well, he can try to blame it on a lot of circumstances.
Once it’s been established just how horrible these three young men are (it takes the first half of the book), that’s when people start dying.
I wouldn’t recommend The Hanging Woods to anyone I know.* This book made me frightened at the prospect of having sons. It might be okay for a teen guy audience—the voice is frighteningly authentic, but I’m sure that as a teen, I wouldn’t have liked this book one bit. I kind of wish I’d quit reading it when the notion first struck me, but I kept hoping for something redemptive, something to make the discomfort of imagining these characters worthwhile. No such luck.
*Clearly, though, readers at Amazon disagree with me; it gets a few five-star reviews there.
What Other Bloggers Are Saying:
A Patchwork of Books: "Enjoyable, though heartbreakingly so, both young men and women will enjoy this possible classic-in-the-making." (read more...)
Notes from the Handbasket: "It's a vibrant, gritty portrait of boys struggling to become men. " (read more...)
Read Arizona: "I recommend this book to readers who are mature enough to handle the content. " (read more...)
Becky's Book Reviews: "I prefer my narrators a bit more sane. HOWEVER I know that some readers will appreciate this one. It is well written. If it had been poorly written, I wouldn't have found the strength to keep reading. " (read more...)
- Reading level: Young Adult
- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin; 1 edition (March 21, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0618881255
- ISBN-13: 978-0618881253
- Source: Review copy from publisher