The Bookshelf, A Teen Review: The Hanging Woods by Scott Loring Sanders

Courtney Bowers

Growing up in a southern town in the mid-seventies, 14-year-old Walter and his two mischievous best friends, Jimmy and Mothball, spend most of their time sneaking out at night and playing down by the river. They are particularly interested in the Troll, a homeless man who lives under the railroad tracks. Their parents worry about the boys’ adventures, but in the times when the world seemed a much safer place, the kids pay no attention to their warnings. However, Walter’s innocent world begins to change the day he reads his mother’s diary. The secrets contained within those pages affect Walter in strange ways, ways he doesn’t even realize.

It begins when he kills a fox one day with ease and is left with no remorse. He watches a man die without even attempting to stop and help him. He and his friends are violent towards animals, fascinated by their struggle to get away. Walter finds himself curious about death, and it becomes more of a puzzle he must solve. As he uncovers more truths, Walter’s mind reaches a dark, twisted place he has never gone, yet he isn’t even conscious of what he’s becoming.

Meanwhile, Walter’s friends also have sinister sides. After a camping trip to the Hanging Woods, Walter and Mothball decide to play a trick on Jimmy, who has a dark and abusive past. One night at the river close to the railroad tracks, the boys play on a rope swing. When their prank goes terribly wrong, it’s far too late to save Jimmy. The police get involved, and the prime suspect is the Troll.

Walter is amazed by how one night, just one accident, changed his life forever. But was it an accident? When Walter can no longer tell the truth from his own lies, he realizes that deception has turned him into a monster, but he no longer knows what really happened on that fateful night. In this psychological thriller, author Scott Loring Sanders leads readers into the depths of a mind confused by deceit and the shocking events that can occur when it goes too far.

The way the author portrays Walter’s gradual change from a naïve boy to a dark and vulnerable young man is brilliant. The story’s mood turns from light hearted to chilling, but that only adds to the mystery that unfolds throughout this spectacular novel.

“The Hanging Woods” is sure to leave readers hanging on every word as they attempt to decipher what really happened to Jimmy, though the truth is blurred by the false narration of a young but criminal mind.

Have you read “The Hanging Woods?” Discuss your thoughts on the book below.

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