Saturday, October 11, 2014

"The Body in the Woods"

April Henry is the New York Times bestselling author of many acclaimed mysteries for adults and young adults, including the YA novels Girl, Stolen and The Night She Disappeared and the thriller Face of Betrayal, co-authored with Lis Wiehl.

Henry applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel for teens (and adults), The Body in the Woods, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“I’m sorry.” She pulled the pillow over her head.

Her mom snatched it away.

“We need ingredients. I’m going to Safeway.”

Alexis sat up. “No. It’s the middle of the night.” The clock read 2:18. “I don’t want you going out this late. The only people up at this time are drunk or …” she stopped herself from saying crazy “… or on drugs.”

“But I want to make cookies.” Her mom bounced faster and faster. “And I can’t unless I go to the store. We don’t have the ingredients.

There was no use arguing with her. Alexis was so tired that she had laid down in her clothes, so all she needed to do was push her feet into some shoes and grab the food stamps card and her coat.

The night was cold. Her teeth chattered, while her mother galloped in circles around her and laughed.

“Look at the moon!”

The streets were deserted, except for the occasional car. The neighborhood homeless were all curled up on their makeshift beds - flattened pieces of cardboard laid down in doorways. Alexis couldn’t bear to look at them. On days like today she worried that someday she and her mom might be right next to them.

At Safeway, the automatic door swung open for them. Everything gleamed under the florescent lights, all glass and stainless steel. There were only a few shoppers. People who probably never went out in the daylight. Maybe they were vampires. Or zombies, judging by their slow shambling.
Page 69 of The Body in the Woods presents one of the book’s subplots. There are three main characters—Alexis, Ruby and Nick—each with their own issues. Alexis has spent her life covering for her mom’s mental illness, Nick’s bravado hides his fear of not being good enough, and Ruby just wants to pursue her eccentric interests in a world that doesn’t understand her. When the three teens join Portland County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, they are teamed up to search for an autistic man lost in the woods. What they find instead is a dead body. In a friendship forged in danger, fear, and courage, the three team up to find the girl’s killer—before he can strike one of their own.

I did a lot of reading about bipolar illness and interviewed a member of Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue (MCSO SAR) about the experience of having a parent who was bipolar. A friend of my daughter’s had a mother who lived on the streets for years, so that factored into the book as well.

The main plot of The Body in the Woods, which is the first in a series, is about search and rescue. I thought I knew what search and rescue did: find people lost in the wilderness. But it turns out MCSO SAR has two things that set it apart. First, only teens can hold leadership positions (they can even lead search teams without an adult being on the team). Second, about 30 percent of what they do is crime scene evidence recovery. Evidence they have found has been credited with helping solve dozens of murders. They’ve done everything from finding the rest of the scattered bones after hikers stumble across one while hiking, to finding guns, knives and bullets at outdoor crime scenes or where the criminal has discarded them, hoping they will never be found.
Learn more about the book and author at April Henry's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Girl, Stolen.

--Marshal Zeringue