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The Hanging Woods

3.69  ·  Rating Details  ·  239 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews
What Walter reads that day changes him. Not in any way someone would really notice. He still goes to school, hangs out with his friends Jimmy and Mothball, and tries to avoid the Troll, the town recluse. But something in him has changed. It's as if he can feel a part of him growing—the part that can stand by and watch a house burn down or the life flow out of a fox, withou ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published March 21st 2008 by HMH Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2008)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 560)
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May 15, 2015 karen rated it really liked it
Shelves: why-yes-i-ya
i have no idea why no one has read this book.

it is amazing. i wasn't sure it was YA at first because i bought it used, and the writing is so wonderful: dark and literary. not that YA can't be dark and literary, but this just seems particularly well-crafted for an audience that usually swoons over sparkly vampires where the word "beautiful" is used 14,000 times per volume.

this book has a more "classic" appeal to it, and of course the comparisons between it and to kill a mockingbird are obvious,
Apr 05, 2008 Clifford rated it it was amazing
I'm no expert in the young-adult genre, but this is a terrific book. Unlike To Kill a Mockingbird, with which it has some important similarities, this book is about kids who will seem real to a modern reader: they're flawed and they're from flawed families. For more, see my review at Perpetual Folly.
Scott Sanders
Apr 05, 2008 Scott Sanders rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
Recommends it for: everyone, but especially to males who like dark, edgy fiction
Come on, I have to give my own book five stars. But here are some actual reviews from highly respected national publications and journals, including one that chose to give out its own stars.

Bulletin Starred Review for The Hanging Woods

In what initially seems like one of those small-town boyhood friendships, Walter is virtually inseparable from his pals Jimmy and Mothball; the trio roams through the Alabama woods and engages in some of the traditional mischief of young teenage boys, such as spin
Tim Burdick
Oct 21, 2008 Tim Burdick rated it it was amazing
I read this book for two reasons; first Scott grew up across the street from me in New Jersey, and second the book was favorably compared to my all time favorite book "To Kill A Mockingbird". Now I must admit that this book is fairly dark (as Scott admitted to me prior to reading it) and often disturbing. However, the plot is engaging and thoughtful. I typically enjoy novels that are socially engaging and wish Scott's book did more of that, because it definetely had the opportunity. Regardless t ...more
Apr 22, 2008 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Wow. I was intrigued by the description on the inside book flap and was not disappointed. This book about three best friends in 1975 is full of secrets, lies, and deceit. Shocking and a bit disturbing, this is not a book I'll soon forget.
Kira Simion
Nov 15, 2015 Kira Simion rated it liked it
I did enjoy this I promise.

Somewhat spoilers:

The two stars I took away from was the characters that didn't seem to develop. Don't get me wrong. When they cut off the head of the chicken (yes I just spoiled because I like leaving teasers) to test out how long "chickens can live with their heads cut off" I found it interesting but, the characters themselves didn't really seem to change. (Kind of like a running around like a chicken with its head cut off. That expression, you know)?

The other star w
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 07, 2012 Heather rated it it was amazing
Heather Stewart
This story is about three teenage boys and their practical jokes on each other. While trying to get Jimmy back for a practical joke he played on them, Walter and Mothball end up killing him and everyone in the town is trying to figure out who did it. Walter’s mother has always despised Jimmy’s family but why he didn’t know. His father is really upset by Jimmy’s death and has never been overly affectionate toward Walter. In the end you find out Jimmy was Walter’s half brothe
Jul 25, 2008 Jennifer rated it it was ok
Shelves: adult-fiction
Another book I am not sure what to make of. I hated the story but was compelled to find out what was going to happen anyway. There was not 1 character I liked or felt much compassion about. Set in 1975, in Alabama it does have some interesting "looks into the seedier side of suburbia" type stuff going on.

I can not really see this having much of a teen audience, maybe it is for adults?! The author has some great writing accolades so I was kind of surprised at not liking it more. It is well writt
Ann Marie
Oct 09, 2008 Ann Marie rated it liked it
A page-turning first novel; it was uneven in some ways, but filled with vivid detail that made scenes and character relationships easy to envision. I ripped through it in a few days. It was more on the teen side of my usual 9-12 year old geared picks (definitely NOT something I could ever recommend to current students!) I'd like to see how this author develops as future books come out.
Aug 02, 2010 Ashley rated it did not like it
w. . . t. . . f. . .
And I don't say that because of the writing style, or any crazy plot twists, or a surprise ending, or anything like that. I say that because about a fourth of the book was dedicated to a decapitated rooster. And yes, there were details. On top of that, it really didn't even seem to have that much relevance to the true story. Screw that noise.
Sep 16, 2008 Sarah rated it liked it
Shelves: young-adult, 2008
While it took me a while to get into this book, by the end I was hooked! Initially I felt bored and not connected to any of the characters or the plot for that matter but I kept reading wondering what the pay off would be. This turned out to be a very twisted and dark story. The ending shocked me, I had to go back and reread what happened.
Oct 11, 2012 Brittany rated it it was amazing
this book kept me hooked from the begining. it is a very good book to read if you like reading about mysteries, families and friendship. it has a suprising twist that blows the readers mind and puts the icing on the cake. if anyone gets a chance to read it, they should.
Jul 31, 2009 Jaime added it
Awesome book...if you haven't read it, read it now.
Edward Sullivan
Sep 16, 2009 Edward Sullivan rated it it was amazing
Nov 04, 2008 Jen rated it it was ok
I picked this up because the cover and the blurbs made it seem like a "Stand by Me" sort of novel. Set in the 1970s in a small, struggling working class town, this is the story of 3 teen boys who are uneasy with themselves and with each other.

Trust is a major theme in this book - though lifelong friends, the three main characters don't trust each other at all. They make mention of John Knowles "A Seperate Peace" and there are some interesting parallels.

The characters don't grab you, and the st
Cana Rensberger
Jan 02, 2010 Cana Rensberger rated it it was amazing
You know that feeling you get when you pass a particularly horrific accident? It’s not that you want someone to be hurt, but you can’t help slowing down to look. That’s how I felt as I began reading this book.

The year is 1975, shortly after the end of the Vietnam War. Times are tough. Tempers flare and the stress level is high. There are many historical elements that firmly root this story in this time period, yet the events and emotions in this story are not relegated to the 70’s. Knowing this
Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Cana Rensberger for

You know that feeling you get when you pass a particularly horrific accident? It's not that you want someone to be hurt, but you can't help slowing down to look. That's how I felt as I began reading this book.

The year is 1975, shortly after the end of the Vietnam War. Times are tough. Tempers flare and the stress level is high. There are many historical elements that firmly root this story in this time period, yet the events and emotions in this s
Jul 08, 2008 Becky rated it really liked it
Sanders, Scott Loring. 2008. The Hanging Woods.

What can I say about this one? Really? Truly? It's dark. It's depressing. It's truly dreadful--dreadful in content, not style. It's disturbing, very disturbing. A difficult read, a discomforting read. Warped. Twisted. And oh-so-wrong.

First sentence: "In 1975, when I was thirteen, I killed a fox. It happened a few weeks after I'd snuck into my mother's room and read her diary. That diary told me a lot of things that I didn't want to know. Or maybe I
Jan 24, 2016 Monica rated it it was amazing
Shelves: juvenile-fiction
I simply couldn't stop reading this book. The characters, though you know which ones were going to be important, you would never have guessed how!
Quote from Page 15 to give you an idea of how the author writes: "And you'll love him, and squeeze him, and call him George,' said Jimmy. 'Whoa, Jimmy,' I said. 'Since when did you start reading Steinbeck? I didn't even know you could read. 'Steinbeck? What the hell is that?' 'You know, John Steinbeck? You just quoted him.' 'I did not, dipshit. That's
I was expecting something different with this book. More creep factor given the title and the picture on the dust jacket, I guess. Although, it still was not a bad story. The ending really threw me for a loop. I wasn't expecting that at all! I still don't understand why Walter was so deranged. I'm not sure reading that in my mother's diary would have made me a cold blooded killer. To each his own though. I was also surprised by the "young adult" content of this book. Sometimes I felt it was bord ...more
Jan 12, 2014 Emily added it
Shelves: outside-reading
This book was a bit far from my usual genre. I had some trouble getting into it until things started turning physiological. The first sentence is a good look into the book, but you don’t realize it until the end is in sight. While I could guess some of the twists, they were still a shock when they were confirmed. Others had a perfect balance between keeping the reader in the light and the dark, keeping things suspicious but not enough to really let you figure out what was going on. As I was read ...more
Jun 21, 2013 Kirsten rated it really liked it
Well, this is an interesting book, but I would recommend it only for HS kids. There is much cursing going on, I don't really know where to begin. At first I thought about just putting the book down and not read it, but then I thought I better continue and give the librarian at the HS a heads up. Well, the book did suck me in! I wanted to know if the kids have a conscience or not, where the author was going to go with the story, and how he will solve it all. Well, I don't want to spoil it for you ...more
Apr 21, 2012 Lynette rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012
At first, it seemed like this book was going to be another Stand By Me or something, and I was a bit disappointed. But then it took a very interesting and unique turn, and I ended up enjoying it quite a bit. I felt like I figured out the end quite near the beginning of the book, but it didn't ruin it for me. I did feel like we received a lot of information in a rush in the last few chapters, and that it ended abruptly, but that's okay, because it added to the uneasy tone of the novel. I loved th ...more
Apr 23, 2013 Lois rated it it was amazing
I've written other reviews of this book and will write another because this book was so good - I haven't read writing this engrossing since Elizabeth Goudge's beautiful use of words in her books. I could not put this book down and was very sad when it ended - I wanted it to go on forever because of the fabulous writing and descriptions that took me right to the Deep South even though I've never been there. The characters are well-drawn and the plot twist was quite surprising but very satisfying. ...more
Feb 05, 2016 Liz rated it liked it
This unsettling, tragic tale records the events of one strange summer among three friends—vindictive trickster Jimmy, soft, pudgy Mothball, and the enigmatic Walter—in a small Alabama town during the 1970s. After Jimmy plays a cruel trick on them, Walter and Mothball decide to return the favor. Things go awry when their joke ends in tragedy, and the boys find themselves scrambling for reasons to justify their actions. Fans of happy endings are advised to steer clear of this one. The oppressive a ...more
Kathryn Kelly
Nov 19, 2014 Kathryn Kelly rated it really liked it
Great, spine tingling read. Lots of twists and turns in the plot.
Olivia Day
May 25, 2013 Olivia Day rated it it was ok
Though I'm a fan of flawed characters, I still want to be able to like them to a certain degree. Walter was so detestable by the end of the book that I wanted him to get an even worse punishment than he did. The reason To Kill a Mockingbird is so popular is because it has heart despite all the injustices that happen. The heart has been wrenched from this book, leaving only twisted and shriveled characters. I do like that all wasn't revealed until the end, which put the puzzle pieces together for ...more
Jennifer Farr
Oct 14, 2015 Jennifer Farr rated it it was ok
This is NOT a young adult novel.
Jan 01, 2014 BookGirl rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-a-day, ya, mystery
The start was a little hard to get into with the fox and the turkey storyline wasn’t any better. The book focuses on three teenage friends during the summer being mischievous but it takes a twisted turn. The last 100 pages or so it when the book really got interesting for me. Overall I recommend this book it you’re up for a somewhat disturbing story.
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Scott Loring Sanders was born April 20th, 1970 in Atlanta, Georgia but was raised in New Jersey. Since 1990, he has lived in various towns of the Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains, including Blacksburg, Floyd, and Christiansburg.

His first novel, The Hanging Woods, was published by Houghton Mifflin in March, 2008 and is set in rural Alabama. The novel “recalls Greek tragedy even as it suggests a cursed
More about Scott Loring Sanders...

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