Title: The Forest
Author: Krista Wagner
Publisher: Clean Roads
Publication Date: 2017
Page Count: 89 (PDF file)
Age Recommendation: 13
Trigger Warnings: Physical Abuse, Alcohol Abuse
How I came across the book: Review request!
Abused by his father and mistreated by his teachers, resentful teenager Shane’s cynical worldview is challenged when he stumbles upon a hidden portal. On the other side, he finds a forest that transcends time, the very same forest he used to bully his fifth grade classmate, Amanda, for believing it was real.Transported back into his own childhood, Shane discovers a talking pebble that is willing to guide him. However, the forest is reluctant to give up its secrets, and Shane finds he must turn to the very girl he once bullied for help. The forest offers Shane his only chance to escape from his miserable life, if only he can overcome the pang of the past to embrace this new future. ~ The author
The Forest is the sequel to the book The Gold (which happens to be the first book review request I ever got!). The main character is Shane, the boy who bullied Amanda in fifth grade. He’s a senior in high-school now and lives with his abusive dad. He feels angry and alone. One day, something strange happens in the forest…
After finishing, I have to admit that I’m a bit bewildered. First of all, I actually enjoyed Shane’s character. He had depth. He was angry, he felt alone, his family and school life was horrible, and all of a sudden this really weird thing was happening in the forest. He had a lot of potential and honestly, he felt raw and real. I also enjoyed the time-skip. It’s always interesting to read about characters and their world years later. And the fact that Jake was the main character instead of Amanda. It’s interesting to read about the same world but from a different point of view. That’s about where my praise for this book ends.
I don’t feel that the character development was quite right. This book deals with some heavy stuff, including alcohol abuse and abusive parents. I, fortunately, have no experience with parental abuse. However, the fact that a certain character changed into a COMPLETELY different person, literally overnight is a bit hard to believe. It’s also problematic that a woman happened to fix him. Yes, partially was due to her story, but it was definitely implied that due to this woman entering this man’s life–he suddenly changed and became a happier, actually decent human. It wasn’t even hinted that he faked it so that the woman stayed with him. Nope. This woman fixed him and all of a sudden he’s no longer abusive.
Another thing that stood out to me was the writing style. I suppose this is also tied to the plot. Half of the book I was extremely confused about what was going on. I feel like this book would be much better as a movie. Most of the confusing scenes had a lot to do with visual aspects. Things appearing, floating, teleportation, strange warping things, and so much more. It would translate beautifully over to a movie, with colors and sparkles and lights, but its intended impression fell flat in writing.
Dealing with the plot, it seemed all over the place. I’m sure the author had a plan set out and a theme that they wanted to convey, but so many weird things happened during the final scenes, it made almost no sense at all. While the characters where jumping all over the story, so was the plot. The end seemed to try to throw in some strange ‘Jesus saves all’ or some type of message and nothing before that seemed to imply or even talk about Jesus. Of course, there’s nothing wrong writing books about accepting Jesus or anything like that. You are free to write whatever you like. However, I wish the author had made it make more sense and led up to those messages that they were trying to send, or simply make those statements a bit less blunt. For example:
“What does Christmas mean to you?” He turned to face her.
“Do you believe?”
Overall, this book was enjoyable but lacked a coherency necessary to take it seriously.
“Darla your girl?”
Jake swatted him on the arm and laughed. “We’ll see. I’m
helping her with Chemistry.”
“Hey!” He swatted him again.
Since his mom’s death, he had taken an interest in
dragons. Watching movies with dragons in them. Reading about
them. Drawing them. They fascinated him because they
symbolized power and they bore a sort of force that he desired to
have, an enormous strength that required reverence from others.