by Emily Carroll
started: March 7, 2018 | finished: March 8, 2018
Back in 2015, I remember coming across this book online and lusting after it for a long while, but, being a broke literature major at the time, my money went towards required reading rather than OMG-I-NEED-THAT reading and Through the Woods faded from my peripheral. Fast-forward to last week when I went to the library as I do ever Wednesday to write and there this beauty was on display right next to the table I always sit at as though greeting me with angelic voices singing around it. Okay, so that’s a very obnoxious way of saying that I snatched it up as soon as I laid eyes upon it. And all I can say is, “why does this book keep entering my life when I don’t have money?”
Featuring five creepy stories and stunningly haunting imagery, Through the Woods is the graphic novel that I needed as a weird, horror-loving teen. Though none of the stories are can’t-walk-down-a-dark-hallway-afterwards scary, they are unsettling enough to satiate both horror fans and those who just want a good Halloween read.
I was actually surprised how each story was able to hold my attention and make me want to know what was going to happen next. Even if I already had a feeling what was coming, I was still consistently and steadfastly along for the ride.
Since this is a collection of stories, I thought it would be best to talk a little about each one.
This story depicts the narrator as a child and the fear she felt of the darkness at the edge of her bed at night after reading. The story is short with less than 100 words, but it serves its purpose of getting the reader into the scary story mindset.
“Our Neighbor’s House”
This story follows three sisters whose father sets out in the dead of winter and doesn’t return home after three days. Though they were told to go to the neighbor’s house on the fourth day if he didn’t return, the oldest of the sisters insists that they stay before beginning to act strangely. This story plays with the fears that come with isolation and has one of my favorite pages that just encapsulates that mood of the story perfectly.
“A Lady’s Hands are Cold”
Playing with “Bluebeard” themes, this story depicts a young woman who is married to a rich man and who begins to hear an eerie song coming from the house at night. This story flips some key ideas on its head with wonderful effect. Plus, it features this stunning spread.
“His Face All Red”
In this story, a man’s brother isn’t his brother, and he knows this because he killed his brother. Though this story never really give you an answer, it’s the very concept that makes this one creepy. Plus, this story utilizes silence beautifully.
“My Friend Janna”
“Janna” takes the seance story to a new level when the girl pretending to communicate with spirits becomes haunted by a spirit that only her best friend can see. This is another story that doesn’t end with an answer, but it doesn’t really need one, the concept itself being what makes the story.
“The Nesting Place”
The longest of the stories, “The Nesting Place” features Bell, a fearless girl who doesn’t believe in monsters until she is confronted with one. This story falls more into the body horror category of creepy. The story itself isn’t all that creepy, but the almost cinematic visuals are what make it.
Rounding out the book, we return to our narrator in “An Introduction” as she makes her way through the woods to her mother’s house. This story is a bit of a turn on the typical Red Riding Hood stories with an ending that is creepily philosophical.
I had a bit of trouble with this one, since you’re not really in any of the stories long enough to, so I thought, really get to know the characters, but the more I thought about, the more I realized that I was kind of wrong. Though the characters are never explored or fleshed out, you do get a quick glimpse of who they are as a character which aids in the further telling of the story. So, no, the characters aren’t three dimensional people, but they don’t really need to be for this format to work.
While the writing style is sparse, it works in Carroll’s favor here. Good visual horror isn’t in what’s said, but rather what isn’t and Carroll definitely embraced that.
The art in this book is stunning! The use of color, space, text, and speech bubbles added so much to the story. Much like with the writing, Carroll understands how to use visuals in her favor when telling horror. The images alone make this book worth cherishing.
I loved this book and had to stop myself from finishing it in one night. It’s quick enough that nothing drags, the visuals stunning, and Carroll obviously understands what makes creepy creepy. I’m definitely going to purchase this book once I’m back in a place where I can freely throw money at amazon.