June Hur is an auto-buy author ever since The Silence of Bones. So you know I’ve had my eye on The Forest of Stolen Girls ever since it was announced! Another historical fiction? Count me in! I don’t read enough historical fiction YA novels, so I was so ready. Keep reading this book review to see if this lived up to the hype.
Hwani’s family has never been the same since she and her younger sister went missing and were later found unconscious in the forest, near a gruesome crime scene. The only thing they remember: Their captor wore a painted-white mask.
To escape the haunting memories of this incident, the family flees their hometown. Years later, Detective Min—Hwani’s father—learns that thirteen girls have recently disappeared under similar circumstances, and so he returns to their hometown to investigate… only to vanish as well.
Determined to find her father and solve the case that tore their family apart, Hwani returns home to pick up the trail. As she digs into the secrets of the small village—and reconnects with her now estranged sister—Hwani comes to realize that the answer lies within her own buried memories of what happened in the forest all those years ago.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
The Forest of Stolen Girls is pure atmosphere. It’s a book about all these missing girls and questions. Broken branches and holes in tapestries. Daughters vanishing without a trace. I definitely got similar vibes from The Forest of Stolen Girls and The Silence of Bones, but I loved it! I think my favorite element of The Forest of Stolen Girls – despite the twisting mystery – was the family element. Not only is there a complex sister relationship of bridged silences, but also Hwani’s disillusionment of her father.
She has to realize that the father she knew, is different than the one her sister knew. That her father was, after all is said and done, just human. Capable of making mistakes, full of regret, and unable to be who we might expect, or want. Parenthood is messy and complex. It manifests in different and difficult ways. Witnessing the variety of parents in The Forest of Stolen Girls just reinforces this idea. Will we become tied to their images of us? To our duty to them no matter what?
The Forest of Stolen Girls presents a transfixing mystery that absorbed me. Throughout the book our expectations are examined. The prejudices we have, the secrets the ones we love hide, and what we will do for family. Atmosphere and mood oozes from the pages and you will be transported. Hur asks readers if we will stay silent in the face of wrong we can see. When will we be able to speak out? Kindness that serves to hide evil intentions, to hide what we will sacrifice for our family, whatever the cost.