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Reviews for The House In The Pines

by Ana Reyes

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

The traumatic past that Maya spent years determinedly burying comes roaring back as she watches an online video mysteriously labeled “Girl Dies on Camera.” Maya watches a young woman enter a diner that she recognizes from her hometown—Pittsfield, Massachusetts—and sit across from Maya’s ex, Frank Bellamy. While listening to Frank, the woman inexplicably slumps over, dead. Years ago, Maya watched her best friend, Aubrey, die the same way, and now she’s certain that Frank somehow murdered both women. Unfortunately, Maya also knows she can’t count on being believed; she’s battling Klonopin withdrawal, and her memories of Frank are full of disturbing gaps. Maya drops everything to find Frank and break his hold on her, returning to Pittsfield, where she knows he’s hunkered down in his well-hidden cabin. Too late, Maya realizes how Frank has kept his twisted hold on her mind, and he won’t let her stop him from collecting girls. Thick psychological tension is heightened by Maya’s memory lapses and reality-bending perceptions, lending the story a dark, supernatural feel.

Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

The summer before Maya, the heroine of Reyes’s intriguing if flawed debut, entered college, 17-year-old Aubrey West, her best friend from high school in Pittsfield, Mass., dropped dead while talking to Maya’s then boyfriend, Frank Bellamy. While Aubrey’s death was ruled accidental, Maya was sure that Frank killed Aubrey, but she had no way of proving it. Now, eight years later, Maya is living in Boston with a new boyfriend and is trying to kick her addiction to the medication she’s been secretly taking to cope with the trauma of Aubrey’s death. One sleepless night, while watching a trending YouTube video, Maya sees a young woman fatally collapse while sitting across the table from Frank in a diner. Convinced that Frank has somehow murdered another victim, Maya returns home to Pittsfield to search for answers, which may just lie in the cabin in the woods where Frank used to entertain Maya and Aubrey. Well-developed characters and a nice balance between the main narrative and the backstories draw the reader in, but the action builds to an implausible and disappointing ending. Reyes shows enough talent to suggest she can do better next time. Agent: Jenni Ferrari-Adler, Union Literary. (Jan.)

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Years after a young woman's sudden death in her best friend’s kitchen, a viral video reopens questions left unanswered. Still struggling to emerge from the wake of the tragedy she witnessed the summer before she left for college, Maya Edwards has built a life for herself with a nice guy named Dan and has vowed to stop using Klonopin to manage anxiety and insomnia. Then “Girl Dies on Camera” appears on social media. In it, a young woman pitches over dead at a table in a diner in Maya’s hometown of Pittsfield, Massachusetts. As Maya sees to her horror, the woman was with Frank Bellamy, an older man/weirdo she dated that terrible senior summer. Frank was present when her best friend, Aubrey West, died the same way as the woman in the video, with no cause ever determined. Maya’s always thought Frank had something to do with it. Now she's sure and takes a trip home to see what she can find out. As a thriller, Reyes’ debut is weak. The suspense is minimal, with no sense that Frank is coming for Maya or that it actually matters whether these crimes are solved. In fact, the main threat to Maya’s well-being is the difficulty of Klonopin withdrawal and the heavy drinking she is doing to get through it, endangering her relationship with Dan, and the most interesting storyline concerns Maya’s mother and father. Brenda Edwards met Jairo Ek Basurto while on a missionary trip in Guatemala; he was murdered at the age of 22 before Brenda even knew she was pregnant. He left behind an uncompleted manuscript which Maya translated around the time she met Frank but then stuffed in a drawer; it turns out to have inspiration for her now. One of the most interesting conversations in the novel is between Maya and her mother, discussing the manuscript and the idea that our souls have a “true home” elsewhere. One would rather read a book about Brenda and Maya and skip Frank and his house in the pines altogether. The book isn’t compelling or believable as a thriller, but the author has potential in other directions. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

When Maya sees a YouTube video of a young woman dropping dead before a mysterious man named Frank, just as Maya's best friend did before this same man seven years previously, she returns to her Berkshires hometown to uncover the source of Frank's baleful influence. A buzzing debut.