Thursday, December 29, 2022

Book Review: The House in the Pines

By Sara Steven

Armed with only hazy memories, a woman who long ago witnessed her friend's sudden, mysterious death, and has since spent her life trying to forget, sets out to track down answers. What she uncovers, deep in the woods, is hardly to be believed....

Maya was a high school senior when her best friend, Aubrey, mysteriously dropped dead in front of the enigmatic man named Frank whom they'd been spending time with all summer.

Seven years later, Maya lives in Boston with a loving boyfriend and is kicking the secret addiction that has allowed her to cope with what happened years ago, the gaps in her memories, and the lost time that she can't account for. But her past comes rushing back when she comes across a recent YouTube video in which a young woman suddenly keels over and dies in a diner while sitting across from none other than Frank. Plunged into the trauma that has defined her life, Maya heads to her Berkshires hometown to relive that fateful summer--the influence Frank once had on her and the obsessive jealousy that nearly destroyed her friendship with Aubrey.

At her mother's house, she excavates fragments of her past and notices hidden messages in her deceased Guatemalan father's book that didn't stand out to her earlier. To save herself, she must understand a story written before she was born, but time keeps running out, and soon, all roads are leading back to Frank's cabin....

Utterly unique and captivating, The House in the Pines keeps you guessing about whether we can ever fully confront the past and return home. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

When I say The House in the Pines kept me guessing, that’s an understatement. Will Aubrey’s cause of death have some sort of supernatural foundation? Can the same be said for the young woman Maya sees in the YouTube video? How is Frank tied to it all? The truth was so shocking, I didn’t even see it coming!

At first, I wasn’t sure what sort of past Maya had that would feed into her secret addiction. Like nearly everyone else in her life, I didn’t know the depth or extent of what she has gone through, and it’s obvious she holds onto self-medication because it’s a way to escape. Then the YouTube video. It seemed to be a trigger for her, opening up old wounds, reminding her of what she’d witnessed several years prior when her friend Aubrey had died. 

I’m not always a fan of flashback chapters, but I felt it really worked here. We get to see the present Maya, who is taking us right along with her while she sleuths what really happened to her best friend, along with past Maya, giving us background information into the type of friendship she’d had with Aubrey. Then there’s Frank, an absolute enigma. From the get go, Maya had no interest in him, barely noticing his existence. Yet, suddenly, as though he’d cast some sort of invisible spell on her, she finds him fascinating and wants to spend every waking moment with him. Interactions with him were equal parts interesting and downright scary, because I never knew what was going to happen from one scene to the next. 

The information provided regarding Maya’s dad was also interesting. I don’t know if the story needed that extra element or not. I felt like it would have stood just fine on its own, but regardless, it was still so captivating and engrossing. I couldn’t stop reading because I wanted to know how it would end, and I wanted to know what really happened to Aubrey and the woman in the video. The House in the Pines was creepy. Addictive. Suspenseful. It was a plain out psychological thriller, and worth the five stars I’ve given it!

Thanks to Dutton for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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