Thursday, August 19, 2021

ARC Review: Eyes of the Forest by April Henry

Eyes of the Forest

April Henry
Publication: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) (August 24, 2021)

Description: After a bestselling fantasy writer disappears, only his biggest fan believes he’s in danger. Instead of re-reading his books, she must venture into the real world to uncover the truth in this fast-paced mystery by New York Times-bestselling author April Henry. For readers of Courtney Summers and Karen McManus.

Bridget is RM Haldon's biggest fan. She and her mom sought refuge in Haldron's epic fantasy series Swords and Shadows while her mom was losing her battle with cancer. When Bridget met Haldon at one of his rare book signings, she impressed the author with her encyclopedic knowledge of the fantasy world he'd created. Bridget has been working for him ever since as he attempts to write the final book in his blockbuster sword and sorcery series. But Haldon has gone missing, and Bridget is the only person who seems concerned. Can Bridget piece together Haldon’s cryptic clues and save him before it’s too late?

Master mystery-writer April Henry weaves another heart-stopping young adult thriller in this story that seamlessly blends suspense with an exploration of fan culture.

My Thoughts: This is a story told from multiple viewpoints. Bridget is high school student who has read RM Haldon's fantasy series Swords and Shadows and is an expert on the world the author created. She was introduced to the series when she was young. She and her mother read the stories together while her mother was dying of breast cancer. Bridget met Haldon at one of his rare signings and impressed him enough with her knowledge that he hired her to keep track of the details and answers his questions.

RM (Bob) Haldon is the author who is stuck trying to write the final book in the series. He is getting pressure from his publisher, his agents, the people who turned his story into a television series, and many, many fans. It has been some years since the last volume was released.

Derrick is another teenage fan whose mother works as Bob's personal assistant and housekeeper. Derrick is big into LARPing and the world he and his dad live in is based on Haldon's world but the names have been changed at Haldon's lawyers insistence. Derrick is obsessed with getting the final story.

While chatting with his housekeeper, Bob floats the idea of being kidnapped and forced to write the final book. He didn't believe that the housekeeper and Derrick would actually kidnap him and refuse to release him. Derrick plans to sell chapters on the Dark Web but his mother has more extensive plans. She has always resented her ex-husband and son's obsession with living in a fantasy world. So she forces Bob to do a number of things on the spy cam which they are publishing to the Dark Web which are designed to humiliate him.

The fourth viewpoint character is Ajay who is Indian-American and who becomes Bridget's friend. He is introduced to Haldon's Swords and Shadows epic by Bridget as she reads him the stories during their lunch period where he supplies Indian food that he has cooked. 

Bob convinces Derrick to let him send an email to Bridget which is an encoded cry for help. It takes her a while to decode it but no one, including Ajay, believes her when she tries to tell people that Bob is in trouble. The local police are sure that she is just one more obsessed fan. She's on her own to try to locate and rescue Bob.

This was an intriguing story with lots to think about. It was brought home to me that a story and a world created in an author's mind can take on something like reality in the mind of an obsessed reader like Derrick. I could also understand Bridget's deep interest in the story because of memories of her mother that the stories recalled. And I could also understand Bob's difficulty with finishing up a series because of the sense of both finality and responsibility to his readers. 

Favorite Quote:
Good writing rained trouble down on a character. In the best writing, the trouble was caused by the character's own action. Which pretty much summed up Bob's current situation.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

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