Set in post-apocalyptic Russia, The Woodlands society is harsh and rigid. The focus on "All Kind" over individuality is a common theme in dystopian style novels, but there is an element of uniqueness to this world that draws readers in immediately. The Superiors rule the Woodlands by keeping the different groups of survivors isolated from each other to the point of absolute dependency. Even Rosa's strong personality has trouble seeing past the inevitability of falling in line with the Superiors. Even so, Taylor still manages to keep an underlying sense of hope throughout the terrible trials Rosa faces to keep the readers from despairing too much.
Something I always look for in a novel is a strong cast of characters. Rosa is a character most readers will easily relate to right off the bat, but it is the varied supporting cast that truly gives this novel the sense of reality it needs to capture readers' attention. I very much enjoyed the complexity of each supporting character and the depth of not only their emotions, but their motivation and perspectives on their lives. Joseph is a beautifully deep character who's initial cheerful personality might make readers not take him seriously, but his depth of conviction and troubled soul will make him unforgettable.
It isn't just the supporting characters that readers will have a hard time pulling away from. While this isn't Rosa's story alone, she is definitely the main focus. Rosa isn't immediately the most "likable" character in the sense of her being the kind of girl who easily wins people over. At times I would find myself wishing she could be just a little different, a little less antagonistic or more able to open up to those who love her, but if she were any different she wouldn't be nearly as captivating. It is Rosa's imperfections that make her so real, so unique. It will pull at readers' heartstrings as they suffer along with her through incredible trials.
Rosa's story is not always a happy one, yet her strength and fierce love for her friends never lets the reader lose hope in her. This is the first book in The Woodlands Series, and I can promise that readers will be eager for book two as soon as they finish this one.
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