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Girl in the Woods: A Memoir

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3.45  ·  Rating details ·  2,809 ratings  ·  406 reviews
Girl in the Woods is Aspen Matis’s exhilarating true-life adventure of hiking from Mexico to Canada—a coming-of-age story, a survival story, and a triumphant story of overcoming emotional devastation. On her second night of college, Aspen was raped by a fellow student. Overprotected by her parents who discouraged her from speaking of the attack, Aspen was confused and asha ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published June 14th 2016 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published February 10th 2015)
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3.45  · 
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 ·  2,809 ratings  ·  406 reviews


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Lara
Sep 02, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book has a lot of problems, but I'm intrigued by the story of thru-hiking women and that is what drew me to the book and kept me reading it. I'm surprised by the number of reviewers who thought this was better than Wild. Both women hiked the PCT trail alone following personal trauma (although Matis joined up with other hikers for much of her journey) but the similarities end there. Strayed took much longer to write her book after her hike and I think that was a good thing. Matis' book at ma ...more
Karen Adkins
While Matis has real descriptive skill, I found this book irritating, and compares poorly to Wild (its progenitor). I'm deeply empathetic for what she suffered and why she decides to hike the PCT, and passages were really lovely to read, but she is so self-involved that the memoir part of this was the opposite of engaging, frankly veering into the range of bad self-help at times.
Leah
Nov 10, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: women, wild, memoir
Mixed, mixed feelings.

I'll start with the good: it was a page turner. I wanted to know what happened and neglected a day of work to get to the end. The descriptions of the trail angels and trail magic were just that: magic. (Although some people sounded seriously crazy and addicted to drugs/alcohol). The idea of walking the whole trail, from Mexico to Canada, was quite magical. She did a wonderful job conjuring the allure of the outdoors. She also did an excellent job discussing her rape, evolv
...more
Carolyn
Dec 01, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I disliked this book. The author walked about 2,500 miles along the Pacific Coast Trail from Mexico to Canada. She comes across as self absorbed, immature, overly dependant, entitled and spoiled. She decided to walk after being raped on her second night at college and away from home which was a traumatizing experience. It is clear that she was emotionally damaged long before this. During her hike she is vitriolic towards her mother, and says she hopes her walk terrifies the mother, but often wi ...more
Susan Shapiro
Jul 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As Aspen's writing teacher I'm not unbiased, since the book started with three beautiful short pieces in my class in the New York Times Modern Love column, Tin House and Psychology Today. At 25 years old, Aspen has done what many authors never achieve -she's written a gorgeous, honest, intense, serious and poignant memoir and published it with one of the best houses in the country. While I fear the knives will come out because of jealousy and her provocative subject matter (surviving date rape a ...more
Ilana
Aug 01, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm going to give this 2.5 stars. It had an intriguing premise and I did enjoy reading about the actual PCT hike, but the writing was redundant and heavy-handed. Though I respect her motives and her courage to be so open about her rape, the author was spoiled and unlikeable throughout most of the book. However, she must have done something right because I wanted to know what would happen to her and kept reading until the end.
Gydle
Nov 09, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
Oct 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
Bravely and poignantly written, this important memoir beautifully depicts Aspen Matis' journey from utter recklessness to salvation. Thanks to Goodreads' First Reads for the review copy. This was my unsolicited review.
Mindy
DNF @ 30%

I can't be in this person's head one more minute. I have a huge fascination with hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and even though I wasn't enjoying the writing, I thought the hiking would carry me through. Well, I was wrong. It wasn't enough. I just can't go on. Really a bummer because I had picked this for a challenge and now I can't use it. Grrrrrrr!!!
Debi G.
Sep 02, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
It's a challenge to find a well-written trail narrative. This one is better than most, though a proofreader would certainly have helped. More on that later.

It's unusual for people to change their names, yet both this author and PCT hiker Cheryl Strayed did so. The similarities end there, however, and it's particularly interesting how different--how much more populated-- Aspen Matis' trail experience is from Cheryl Strayed's and others.

It's both exciting and alarming to read about the weather,
...more
Meg - A Bookish Affair
"Girl in the Woods" is a memoir by Aspen Mattis, a girl who decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail by herself after she is raped on the second day at college. Her rape sends her into a tailspin, which is easily understandable. She feels like there has to be something that she can do it in order to feel like herself and feel safe again. She decides that a trip on the PCT it is the best way to do that. I love hiking but the thought of hiking that much is incredibly daunting to me. Aspen goes into ...more
Theresa Smith
Feb 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've taken my time reading this book, not because I wasn't enjoying it, but because it gave me much to think over after each session. It's not the best written book, nor is Aspen/Debbie immune to the flaw of getting on your nerves at times. But when you reach the end of this book, you reach a place of understanding that only comes from the most honest of writers. Within the pages of this memoir, Aspen opens herself up to the harshest of scrutiny, and it's to be nothing but admired. It's not unti ...more
Esther Bradley-detally
I couldn't put it down, and I had the vague recollection I had read parts of it before. I don't think her mother was overbearing, but she overcompensated as so many mothers have for generations. I think the author did not whine (you can tell i've skipped thru some reviews), but she was social inadept and overprotected. that is not a war crime. She wrote a good book. She had tremendous courage, and her relationship was interesting. I felt towards the end; is this all true; but still spunky young ...more
TK
Jun 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A much better memoir than WILD. Much like Cheryl Strayed, Aspen Matis sets out to hike the Pacific Crest Trail as a way to heal herself, to grow stronger, and to become unafraid. When I read WILD, I was never truly convinced of the author's transformation or personal growth, but in GIRL IN THE WOODS, I am thoroughly convinced that this woman walked through her fears and her character defects to emerge in Canada a more mature and capable person. Matis's writing is beautiful, she clearly adores th ...more
Wanda Donelle
Possibly a coming of age story but Aspen Matis has a lot of growing up left to do. She has writing potential but I found this story totally depressing. As a parent of young adults I was overwhelmed by this woman's total lack of life skills and her naivety but even more by her selfishness and stupidity.

She exhibited a total lack of judgement and common sense. Setting out on the journey , whatever impelled her , totally lacking in preparedness was dangerous and just plain stupid. It's not as thou
...more
Jessica
Nov 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. Gorgeous, different memoir of a girl hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. I've read probably dozens of nature memoirs (I have a huge thing for them), but what I loved about this was that it managed to focus on both the journey, and also the REASON for the journey. They twined together effortlessly, and never once seemed tedious or self-indulgent in any way. As an outsider, I could see what was strange and different about her life experiences and relationships, but it was so neat to watch h ...more
Lux
Jul 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a story of adventure and healing told with stunning clarity. Aspen Matis writes in harrowing detail of being raped on her second night of college and then, in unflinching prose, tells the story of her walk from Mexico to Canada — nineteen years old, a girl alone in the woods. What I loved most about this memoir was the author’s incredible honesty. She doesn’t tailor her story to look like a saint, which is likely why a few people have criticized her book. But if, like me, you see beauty ...more
Valerity (Val)
3.5. I felt the author did a good job of telling why she chose to go the extended Mexico to Canada hike and what she hoped to get from it and feels she actually did. I liked her style of telling about her time on the trail, stayed up all night reading to see what happened next. A worthwhile read.
Aspen Matis
Apr 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
Changed my life. ;) Although of course I'm biased.
Wynne Kontos
This memoir wasn't good. But I was rooting for it.
Because "Wild" has been such an important book to me, I was intrigued by the premise of Aspen Matis' personal journey and how the trail helped to heal her. Matis' journey is very different than Cheryl Strayed's. Really the only similarity is that they both used the Pacific Crest Trail as a way to reclaim their bodies and their sense of independence. But their motivations, their family experiences, who they are as women and where they were in thei
...more
Lorrie
Jan 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I didn't know what to think when I started reading this book. Some of the reviews were good but some friends weren't really crazy about it. As I began reading about the mother over protecting the daughter (doing essentially everything for her to the point where the girl couldn't even comb her own hair), I feared I had made a grave mistake in starting this book. Then I quickly found that I couldn't put the book down. 70% of it I finished on the final day of reading. The first 30% was just before ...more
Sabine
I listened to the audio version of the book during my trail runs. I enjoyed the through hike of the PCT trail from Mexico to Canada but found some of the other parts to be very repetitive and frustrating.
It was a page turner but comes with a grain of salt....
Jessica McCann
Aug 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jessica by: REI book club
This was a tough book to rate. The 4 stars are for this young woman’s bravery in speaking out about her rape, refusing to hide what happened or to be shamed by it. The 4 stars are also for Matis’ amazing talent as a writer. Her descriptions of the changing landscape and climates along the PCT are phenomenal and immersive. I also really connected to her interpretation of how important it is to her health and emotional well-being to walk in nature. To use the adjective she used in the book, Matis ...more
Melissa Burke
Aug 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's interesting how much I could relate to Aspen Matis while reading this book. (Keep in mind a huge chunk of this will be about me to get to my point. Or try to anyway). ***Potentially triggering***

Growing up, my mother always took care of me which is amazing and I love her for it, but as I got older she was still doing things like picking out my clothes for me, brushing my hair, etc. When I was young, my shoelace came untied and I had no idea how to re-tie it. My teacher ended up having one
...more
Raven Haired Girl
I gotta say Aspen is one inspiring and courageous woman. Her mettle was unfortunately tested and she accepted the test with extreme grace and poise. I was impressed with this young lady, and I was thrilled her story ended as a happily ever after. A true survivor, a woman overcoming trauma with even more strength than she knew she possessed. No doubt whatever obstacles head towards Aspen she will triumph.

Aspen was very self-aware for your average 19-year-old. She wants more than being coddled by
...more
Renato
Aug 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4 stars: 3 for the memoirist, 5 for the PCT

I will have to be honest here, I found myself disliking Debby Parker for the bulk of the book:

yes- she is merely 19 years old

yes- her confidence in herself and in trusting others has been dealt a fatal blow as a result of her sexual assault and the institution's poor treatment of her case (but also as a result of her 'helicoptering mother')

but you pick up a book like this to read about how a subject rises above all of that adversity and grows as a resul
...more
Judith
Apr 28, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is something of a young adult version of Cheryl Strayed's "Wild". The author, Debby Parker, (aka Aspen Matis) was raised in a completely sheltered environment of wealth by two Harvard Law school graduates, in Newton, Mass. Her mother actually dressed her through her high school years and I don't mean she picked out her clothes: she dressed her like a doll from top to bottom. So weird! If the author can be believed, when she went to sleep-away camp in fourth grade, she didn't take a shower, ...more
Jennifer Rolfe
I agree with a couple of the other reviews which stated that this did not measure up to Wild. Although it is about the PCT walk (same as Wild) Strayed explored her strategies for dealing with profound grief whilst Matis explored her strategies for dealing with rape. However, although I persevered till the end of the book I felt really concerned that she was far from any real analysis of herSELF. At the conclusion of the book she talked about her passivity but not her passive/aggressive determina ...more
Lisa
Nov 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an unbelievable story. As in, I can't believe it! At 19, alone (mostly) this girl walks 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada, with help from her parents who sent her supplies so she didn't have to carry a super heavy pack. She slept on the ground alot of the time, with no tent. In the snow. With bears and snakes. I am obessed with people who can do this, an "arm chair thru-hiker," though it's on my bucket list to do at least some of these long hikes. The only reason I couldn't give this 5 s ...more
Igrowastreesgrow
Will update later.
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Play Book Tag: Girl in the Woods/Aspen Matis - 4 stars 3 28 Jan 24, 2016 09:32AM  
Topeka & Shawnee ...: Hit the Trail 1 18 Nov 13, 2015 01:05PM  

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After being raped on her second night at college, Aspen Matis dropped out. Depressed and shocked that her school didn't believe and protect her, she sought solace in a remote wilderness; she found the Pacific Crest Trail and hiked the entire length, over 2,000 miles from Mexico to Canada.

Her memoir, GIRL IN THE WOODS (HarperCollins), was published September 2015.

Matis is a Riggio Honors Fellow at
...more
“The trees were friendly, they gave me rest and shadowed refuge. Slipping through them, I felt safe and competent. My whole body was occupied. I had little energy to think or worry.” 12 likes
“She told me that my rape was not my fault, that I should feel no shame, that – simple as it may sound – I hadn’t caused it. No one causes rape but rapists. No one causes rape but rapists. No one causes rape but rapists. It was true. And it had not been obvious to me. And hearing it from someone else, a professional, someone who should know, helped me believe that soon I would believe it.” 10 likes
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