From Goodreads: 16-year-old Grace has lived in the Smokies all her life, patrolling with her forest ranger father who taught her about wildlife, tracking, and wilderness survival.
When her dad goes missing on a routine patrol, Grace refuses to believe he’s dead and fights the town authorities, tribal officials, and nature to find him.
One day, while out tracking clues, Grace is rescued from danger by Mo, a hot guy with an intoxicating accent and a secret. As her feelings between him and her ex-boyfriend get muddled, Grace travels deep into the wilderness to escape and find her father.
Along the way, Grace learns terrible secrets that sever relationships and lives. Soon she’s enmeshed in a web of conspiracy, deception, and murder. And it’s going to take a lot more than a compass and a motorcycle (named Lucifer) for this kick-butting heroine to save everything she loves.
I really thought I was going to dislike this novel because, for a majority of it, I found the pacing to be slow, and Grace drove me absolutely insane. Grace cannot make a good decision to save her life, and I mean that quite literally. I yelled at her the entire book, and because I felt that not much was happening in terms of plot aside from treks through the trees, I was really thinking that this was going to be a two star review at the most. And this, dear readers, is why I always finish my books, because around 60% the novel really picked up; the mystery became extremely intriguing! I suddenly couldn’t decide who was good and who wasn’t, and then my interest piqued to the point that I couldn’t put it down, instead reading far into the night. In other words, read it.
I never did come around to liking Grace—I found her decisions to be stupid, childish, and mortifying all the way to the very end. While I understand she’s going through a lot, and that she’s highly independent, she constantly pushes everyone away from her and instead decides to put all her trust into a stranger she meets in the woods, the very place her father disappeared. Ignoring the glaring holes in Mo’s story, she trusts him completely, even though he’s a 17 year-old college student living in the wild, unbeknownst to anyone, to study rocks, a revelation that should put Grace on edge. It doesn’t, though it did put me on edge enough for the both of us, so I guess that evens it out a little bit.
Mo is a mystery, and as the pieces begin to click together, and Grace continually choose the wrong path (a path that constantly puts her life in danger and sends her back into the very woods where she knows deranged animal murderers reside), I have to at least admire her gumption, even though I’m not really a fan of hers in the least. She definitely doesn’t allow anyone else’s thoughts or words to influence her decisions, and she’s hell bent on finding her father. As the only person still convinced he’s alive, she has her work cut out for her, especially as the police and her own mother seem to thwart her at every turn. So, it makes sense she doesn’t trust the people of her town, but at 16 I would expect just a little more common sense. I mean, the fact that she constantly stumbles on evidence to back her claims, but fails to ever take a picture with her phone drove me batty…
My biggest issue with the novel, aside from Grace’s awful decisions, is the timing and occasional holes that crop up in the story. For instance, in a gun battle between two people, it doesn’t make sense to me that there’s time for other characters to stop running away, turn around, and have a conversation with the person who was just shot. For starters, what about the person who shot the character? They’re still in the picture, but for some reason, do nothing… I probably just confused you… it’s like when you watch a movie and right at the climax the bad guy stops and divulges his entire plan, giving the good guys more than enough time to hatch a plan and save themselves. Does that make more sense? Well, basically, there just seemed to be too many instances where everything was hitting the fan in the novel and yet Grace had time to stop and talk to people and try to figure out what to do next when bullets are flying all around her, and that made the story a little less believable for me.
But, Grace’s characterization and plot holes aside, the mystery of her father’s disappearance was great once the story began to pick up, and the end kicked me in the gut. Reader beware, Johannes doesn’t believe in happy endings, that’s for sure, and I found myself sitting in my room at 3am freaking out as the major climax of the story comes into play, killing off a number of characters, which was the last thing I expected to happen, to be honest. And I cried I good bit then too, so I suggest you have tissues somewhere on the premises as your get closer to the ending. But, to juxtapose the bloody end of some characters, there is a small shred of hope, even after all the tragedy, that makes me yearn for the sequel because, as much as I really dislike Grace, I really am invested in this story and the remaining characters. Three and a half stars.
All Night Reads had been extremely gracious in allowing me to read this novel via Netgalley.