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Reviewed by Cecelia Hopkins for Readers' Favorite
Secrets Buried in the Wood by Emily Stalder Johnson follows an intriguing plot of discovery. Arrow Warren is surprised when Aunt Lena decides to hide her at Grandma and Grandpa Lawrence’s wilderness retreat near Marietta, Ohio. Arrow is confused and frightened because no one will explain why she might be in danger. Making the best of the situation, she explores the woods and befriends the boys next door, Ryan and Zane Garrison. Fearing pursuit from the unknown tracker, Arrow decides to run away in the night. Uncovering documents from a suspicious clearing beside a strange stone could change everything she had ever been told about her family!
Secrets Buried in the Wood by Emily Stalder Johnson is a middle-grade story tending toward a young adult story full of suggestion and intrigue. I liked entering Arrow’s mind and following her on her path of discovery. Although the tale had darker aspects, I was relieved to discover the truth and see Arrow take charge of her own destiny. The narrative was clear and well-structured, with subtle hints of suspense. The plot presented family issues that could be serious unless resolved, while the skilled storytelling left me surprised at the outcome. The novel reminded me of an M. Night Shyamalan film because it revolved around perception and delivered a twist toward the end. I also liked the natural dialogue between the young people, and the inclusive way Arrow could associate with the two boys. Secrets Buried in the Wood by Emily Stalder Johnson beautifully captures the “tweenage” point of view and should appeal to a range of readers.