So, I finally read Through the Woods. This was a long time coming. There was a lot of buzz around it when it was published in 2014. My interest perked, I placed it on my TBR back then and bought it in the following year intending to “read it soon.” It languished on my bookshelf since then until April this year, when I read it for the O.W.L. Magical Readathon.
Before that readathon, other bloggers who’ve read and loved the book have always encouraged me to give it a go, but I would always place it on my TBR and neglect to read it. Now I did, and I agree: It’s pretty good.
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll (illus.)
Through the Woods is a YA horror graphic novel that contains five “mysterious, spine-tingling” fairytale-esque short stories about “journeys into (and out of?) the eerie abyss.” (Goodreads)
Despite being told that these stories are horror and would be best read around Halloween, I was still surprised at how creepy they were. I thought since this is a graphic novel and illustrations are provided, it would be hard to recreate the suspense and mysteriousness inherent in horror stories that help to make them scary or creepy. But Carroll pulls it off. I was a little creeped out.
What I loved about the stories is that they read like fairytales to me. They are simple and quick but seem to have loads more going on below the surface, plot-driven, and sometimes surreal with indefinite endings that add to the mysteriousness and makes your imagination run wild with what might happen next. They almost seem to have a message or lesson hidden somewhere in its telling that you’re supposed to ruminate on.
I enjoyed reading the stories, but of them all, the ones I liked the most were:
“His Face All Red,” which is about a guy who’s guilt-ridden after killing his brother out of jealousy. I like how the story is narrated. It slowly builds, piling on the guilt… and suspense. And I like how it ends. It made me wonder what exactly returned from the woods.
“The Nesting Place” is another good one. That one creeped me out mostly because of how the monster is drawn. Eww! It’s disturbing to me. It’s about a girl spending the summer with her brother and his fiancé after her mother died. She suspects that her brother’s fiancé is a monster. Again, I like the build up here. It begins with a scary story the girl’s mother told her as a kid, then pauses on the scary before building again to something terrifying. The end definitely creeped me out and made me feel sorry for the girl.
I’m not a fan, but it works well for the stories. It’s easy to follow and even terrifies me sometimes, as I’ve mentioned above, and is simple so that the reader pays attention to the story rather than the art. But, overall, it’s not one I like.
However, there are aspects of it I like. For example, the colors used toward the end of “Our Neighbor’s House” — the stark white, black, and jot of red. There is a page there where more than half of it is in white with a tiny cabin at the very top to show the huge distance the jot of red, the protagonist, traverses as she seeks her neighbor’s house. That story was pretty good too. It tricked me into thinking the stories would be mildly creepy, but they can be unsettling.
Although I’m not a fan of the art, I liked the illustrations for “A Lady’s Hands Are Cold” the best because of the colors used — they are brighter and bolder, probably because the characters here are more wealthy than those in the other stories. This story contains more dramatic illustrations, stylized talk bubbles, and places more emphasis on the flow between certain panels. The illustrations are a lot more detailed here than in the others. This story was creepy as well, but the illustrations almost distracted me from it. I enjoyed looking at these pages.
It’s a good read that I’d encourage you to try, especially if you want something creepy with a fairytale quality to it.