Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Hanging Woods by Scott Loring Sanders

The Hanging Woods by Scott Loring Sanders
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...)

More Info:
  • 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


  1. I read this book and...it was disturbing. I agree with you Jena; this really is sociopathic. I finished it just a few minutes ago, and I deciphered the message before reading it and it was creepy. I can't help but wonder though; what happened to the Troll? And will Walter be found guilty, or will he be let off on insanity charges? He really does seem that way, as he said it himself.

  2. I think it's a great book for teenagers, seeing as though I am one, and it's a great book in general. If you don't want a disturbing book, don't read a thriller.