I don't like to leave poor reviews because I know how difficult it is to put ideas to paper and have the courage to ask others to read it, let alone enjoy it. Billed as a "Stranger Things"-type story about a group of buddies, this book was filled with language that was abusive, racist, homophobic, and downright disgusting. I am a fan of Huck Finn, so I "get" trying to paint characters as potentially immature, ignorant - especially teens and pre-teens who may live in different socio-economic situations. Kids talk differently with their friends than they do with adults. There's no denying it. My biggest issue was with the "horror" - either write it as a true horror story (with believable "monster") or stick with the "best friends find something freaky", but the author seemed unable to decide the course to take. Instead, I felt like I was reading an attempt at Stephen King's "The Body" (made into the movie Stand By Me) set in modern times and with none of the real nostalgia OR thrill factor. Making one parent abusive didn't help the storyline. And the woods had almost ZERO to do with anything in the plot beyond creating a dark setting. Of course, woods always equate to monsters, right? Wrong. The "scare" is something that could have crawled out of the sewer in New York City or landed on Earth on a meteor - that's how little it actually had to do with a forest. Or, at least the author did not tie it to a forest well. Adolescent is the best way to describe this. If you're looking for a book that reminds you of being a 12 year old boy who wanted to steal porn magazines from the local convenience store and figure out ways to get one over on your best pals, you might be entertained. Otherwise, I hope the author digs a little deeper in their next project.
This book is excellent! Great story! Makes you feel like these kids are friends of yours. As for Valerian8's review. First of all he is reading a story set in the 80s with a 2010s lens. I grew up in the 80s, that is how we talked. The situation Harrison faces in the beginning, we would've responded with the same words. This book is not for easily offended wimps. If you can read a story set in the 80s with the way kids talked in the 80s, you're in for a treat. If not, stick to Winnie The Pooh. The author does a great job of making these kids seem real and like the reader is silently observing everything.
I was looking for a book that mixed my favorite elements of IT and Stranger Things and found that right here. It is a really fun and exciting story that knows when to be creepy and scary but also manages to put in a great dose of a "coming of age" novel into it, with a deep and complex character development. The ending felt a bit rushed in my opinion but that does not mean that this book is not worth your time. Its the opposite, actually. Really good and well put together. I need a second book, Mr. Urban!
If you like the Netflix Show Stranger Things or King's novel IT, you will likely enjoy this one. It is about five young boys, aged around 12, who encounter some supernatural event happening in their town and they have to handle it because adults, of course, would laugh if they were told what was happening. One of the kids is really fat and get picked on; another kid has an abusive day, so yeah there are some repeats from the approach to horror going on here. It might have been more unique if one of the kids was picked on for being too tall and skinny!
First, other reviewers have said the book is anti-gay and contains too much foul language. The book is not anti-gay; it is just the first chapter that for some reason has a gay predator as one of the characters and the young boy reacts with a bunch of slurs when he is approach. Actually I thought this was pretty realistic as a response, though I do not know why the author needed to start with the kid being approached this way. As for language, yeah there is a lot of low grade foul language that you would expect from junior high kids and a lot of attention to girls who are entering puberty. Again, the attention the boys pay to girls is very realistic.
The writing is good and some spots are really good. The early chapters, after the first one with the incident with the gay guy who approaches the boy, are very well written and proceed nicely.
As the book goes forward, it picks up the pace and it is true, as one reviewer said, that the ending feels too fast and overly dramatic. I also think the boys are not as affected by the horror they see as real boys might be. Be aware the author may well kill off a major character in this book!!
If you like this kind of horror story, you will likely enjoy the book. It is not as lengthy and character rich as a King book, but it is in the same vein and approach. With some adjustments this would be a good movie of this type.
I remember watching Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs” when it first came to home video and being wowed by its references to films and television shows. At that time such pop culture minutia was not usually dissected like that amongst fictional characters. It gave off a sense of realism, as it’s the kind of thing people generally sit around and discuss.
And that’s where Tony Urban’s “Within the Woods” really worked for me. It’s a period piece set in the 80’s, populated with middle school aged characters who, much like I did at their age, rent horror movies on VHS and regurgitate facts about them. It’s movie nerds like these that Urban thrusts into a scenario straight out of a 50’s sci-fi horror flick (or more precisely, an 80’s remake of a 50’s sci-fi horror flick), something they’re all too familiar with.
And while some might argue that the book’s overall plot itself is a tad familiar (think “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, John Carpenter’s “The Thing”, “Night of the Creeps”, etc.), the true strength of it lies more in how Urban handles his characters. The playful interaction and honest feelings of friendship they share make them very genuine and endearing. As someone, like Urban, who was that age in the 80’s, who also loved horror films, I found the characters so relatable as to be uncanny. Real kids in an unreal situation. I found myself caring what was to become of them, and that, after all, is what any reader wants: a story that compels you to turn pages.
One side note: I’ve read a few reviews on here lambasting Urban for his use of language that some are calling “homophobic”. Having been a 12 year old during the 1980’s, I can attest to the fact that this was exactly the type of verbalization boys used to goad one another back then. You can still find it in some movies and books from the period. Not saying this attitude back then was right, but rather that it’s accurate, which is all I see that Urban was striving for. Proclaiming the author as having issues with the gay community for trying to do so is a bit extreme to say the least.
Always been a fan of novels about the struggles of adolescents against the unknown, as it recalls that adventurous time of youth for everyone. Some great thematic details which establish the time period well with only a few anachronisms to break the spell. Very intrigued by the Mayhugh clan, and would love to see a work developing their backstory in the future.
As other have said, this story resonates with anyone who had a group of childhood friends. Add to that an eerie infiltration reminiscent of The Body Snatchers and you have a winner. BUT, you can see the seems where the author sewed together, Stranger Things/Stand By Me/Body Snatchers. Still, it is to good effect and moves well with great characters.
I really loved this story. I loved the fact that it was about kids and their friendship and how they grew together and fought off the "Aliens" as they called the monsters of their town. They truly came together as friends and commands to save their little town. They missed the ones they lost and mourned as a group but also remembered them as a smaller group and will never forget them.
... and now I feel I do. It was a wild introduction with lots of excitement and fun. I was pulled along and breathing hard to stay up with them so I could watch to see if. just maybe, they could kill the monsters ... against all odds.