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Radiant Shadows

The Little Woods

The Little Woods - McCormick Templeman There were certain aspects of The Little Woods that I really enjoyed - the boarding school backdrop, the mystery surrounding the unexplained disappearances, the intrigue and allure of Cally's new friends - but there were other aspects - the author's copious usage of a thesaurus (did you catch what I did there?) and a seemingly plot-irrelevant love triangle - that had me cringing.I like to think I have a rather expansive vocabulary, considering the amount I read. The terms used in The Little Woods are ridiculous. I actually started to comprise a list of words that I had to look up the definition for, because I couldn't believe that any fifteen year old, even one as intelligent as Cally, would speak in such terms. Crepuscular, turpitude, ersatz, hirsute, sartorially, puerility, sybaritic - these are not words that anyone uses, especially not in their thoughts. Every time I stumbled over a word, I was ripped from the story as my brain haemorrhaged slightly and it definitely lessened my overall enjoyment while reading.That being said, Templeman obviously has a way with words. Some of her phrases caught my attention so fully that I had to re-read them because they were written so beautifully.She fell back into her seat like a steam of fresh water languishing into a marble fountain.She was also brilliant at creating such unique descriptions that I could perfectly envision the scene in front of my eyes. Helen looked wrecked, her feline eyes circumscribed with swollen red skin. With a twist and a clip, she affixed her tangled hair so that she looked like a glamorous drug addict.So I'm of two minds about Templeman's writing - it was at the same time both frustratingly annoying and beautiful. Cally was a pretty bland character. At times, she seemed quite emotionally flat and apathetic, which complemented her general laziness. I constantly found myself wondering what her new friends saw in her as she seemed to spend most of her time ignoring them - choosing to leave parties to go read in her room. She had some quirks that made her stand out slightly as an individual, but she's not an overly memorable protagonist.I really enjoyed the mystery surrounding Cally's group of friends. Her roommate Helen seemed to have dual personalities which were constantly in conflict: one second she would be friendly and outgoing and the next her eyes would cloud over and she would brush Cally off, or conveniently forget to invite her to tag along.And then her face lit up, and she pushed herself out of her seat and moved toward me, the cold exterior falling away to reveal a delicious caramel warmth.I had the sense of "keep your friends close, but your enemies closer." The other members of Helen's group gave off a similar vibe, but I did have a hard time keeping them all straight for the first half of the book or so, as they seemed to have similar personalities. As for Sophie, she was even harder to figure out! She welcomed Cally with warmth and smiles but seemed to keep her at arm's length, yet her motives for keeping her distance weren't ever really explained.I didn't believe in Cally's relationships with either Alex or Jack; neither was believable. Her infatuation with Alex's looks explained why she would be thrilled that he was interested in her, but her lack of enthusiasm while they were actually dating failed to create any chemistry between them. Their relationship did absolutely nothing to further the plot or to increase the suspense surrounding the mysterious disappearances; if anything, it took away from the suspense as Cally's investigation was interrupted by a booty call. As for Jack, he came completely out of left field. Their secret rendezvous' were somewhat steamy, but I couldn't wrap my mind around why they were happening. When did they develop feelings for each other? Or was it just about the physical contact? Why could Cally be physically intimate with Jack, but not with Alex? Why were they both willing to risk relationships in order to fool around with each other? It just didn't make any sense to me and it was never properly explained. It also did nothing to further the plot or to help explain the disappearances, so I just didn't understand why it was included.The plot in The Little Woods was paced decently, but it wasn't overly suspenseful. I guessed at the guilty person early on, and was disappointed when I found out I was right. I did enjoy watching Cally stumble upon something that might be relevant, and how it had me trying to piece it into my idea of the culprit. I also liked the inclusion of the puzzle box, as if the guilty party were taunting Cally with the truth if she could only figure it out. It was kind of frustrating that there were so many tangents that were made to be seemingly important, which later served no true purpose - like Cally's distrust of a certain teacher, or the apparent hatred that one teacher fostered for her, and other more spoilery things. Come the end, the way with which things were uncovered was a little too far-fetched for my liking, with Cally having an epiphany of sorts and putting everything together in a jumble of thoughts.As a whole, The Little Woods was slightly...monotonous. While there were definitely aspects I enjoyed, the thesaurus speak, slightly dull protagonist and varied tangents had my thoughts wandering on several occasions. It wasn't an unenjoyable read, but I doubt it will leave any lasting impression on me.