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Before She Was Found

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A gripping thriller about three young girlfriends, a dark obsession and a chilling crime that shakes up a quiet Iowa town, from the New York Times bestselling author of The Weight of Silence .

For twelve-year-old Cora Landry and her friends Violet and Jordyn, it was supposed to be an ordinary sleepover--movies and Ouija and talking about boys. But when they decide to sneak out to go to the abandoned rail yard on the outskirts of town, little do they know that their innocent games will have dangerous consequences.

Later that night, Cora Landry is discovered on the tracks, bloody and clinging to life, her friends nowhere to be found. Soon their small rural town is thrust into a maelstrom. Who would want to hurt a young girl like Cora--and why? In an investigation that leaves no stone unturned, everyone is a suspect and no one can be trusted--not even those closest to Cora.

Before She Was Found is a timely and gripping thriller about friendship and betrayal, about the power of social pressure and the price of needing to fit in. It is about the great lengths a parent will go to protect their child and keep them safe--even if that means burying the truth, no matter the cost.

354 pages, Paperback

First published April 16, 2019

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About the author

Heather Gudenkauf

16 books6,342 followers
Heather is the NYT and USA Today Bestselling author of THE WEIGHT OF SILENCE and THE OVERNIGHT GUEST

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5 stars
4,046 (26%)
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3 stars
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124 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,958 reviews
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,125 reviews39.2k followers
November 3, 2021
Five trembling, unputdownable, put my nerves on edge stars!
As I start that book, I didn’t have too big expectations. But it really surprised me because I loved every part of it! Not only it can be defined is a fantastic thriller but also it can be considered as a great psychological family drama!
This book is shocking, frustrating that slaps you across your face, pushes your buttons incessantly, pisses you off, makes you question your values and amazes you with its unexpected twists!
I got shocked because of cruelty and meanness of little girls, angry of parents who are clueless about what’s going on with their children’s lives, the school system that has no power to fight against bullying!
Three girl’s disturbing story starts with violent attack at the railroads but as soon as we turned back in the time, there were more of that! Too many lies, fairness, misunderstandings!
The end of the book might make you devastated, surprised and sad. Definitely gives you never see this coming or what the hell it cannot be true moments!
Unfortunately it is all real and I want to shake your hand of the author for creating amazing book and wounding me with her harsh, realistic but absolutely gifted words!

Profile Image for Debra .
2,194 reviews34.9k followers
October 6, 2018
It was supposed to be a sleepover Three twelve-year-old girls, Cora, Violet and Jordyn, were having a sleepover at Cora's home. But then the trio decided to sneak out of Cora's home at midnight to go to the abandoned rail-yard. It was supposed to be a fun adventure. It turned into a nightmare.

Cora is found on the tracks by a woman walking her dog. She is covered in blood and barely alive. Violet and Jordyn are nowhere to be found. Later Violet is found and taken to the hospital and Jordyn turns up at the home she shares with her grandparents. Violet is in shock and Jordyn is moody with her mood alternating from indifference, to fear, to defiance.

This book is told through text messages, journal entries, therapists notes and through the perspectives of various family members. As the book progresses, the reader learns more about the girls, their relationships with each other, one's private thoughts and a school project about a local urban legend.

As the police, family members, therapist and girls themselves try to piece things together, it appears that there is more to what happened at the rail-yard than meets the eye. I love how Gudenkauf provides little spinets and clues along the way. I had several theories which changed as new information was presented. I love books which have characters who aren't always reliable - or the Author is able to make the reader question a character’s reliability. This was a fun one as the young girls did not describe the events the same way. I didn't know who was telling the truth, who had something to hide, who was scared, and who had secrets. Plus, the girls were twelve years old, they had broken the rules and left Cora's home. They knew they would be in trouble for sneaking out if they were caught. So, as they shared information, I kept in mind their age and each's desire to get into as little trouble as possible.

This was a very clever and well thought out book. I was fully invested in learning the truth. The Author created characters that the reader will care for, there are some we will question and some we may be wary of but each is interesting and compelling in his/her own way. I felt for the parents just as much as I felt for the girls.

Once I got to the ending, I went back to the beginning to read it. Let me just say, I did not see that coming! This book will not be released until 2019, so put it on your list and keep it on your radar. Fans of Gudenkauf will be delighted by this book. It's another solid book which had me enthralled from the very beginning. Those who have not read Gudenkauf, what are you waiting for? This is a great book I was glued to the pages.

Highly Recommend!

Thank you to Park Row books and Edelweiss for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Read more of my reviews at www.openbookpost.com
Profile Image for Mary Beth .
380 reviews1,614 followers
April 10, 2019
3.5 stars

Before She Was Found is a timely and gripping thriller about friendship and betrayal, about the power of social pressure and the price of needing to fit in. It is about the great lengths a parent will go to protect their child and keep them safe--even if that means burying the truth, no matter the cost.

I loved the first half of this book and I thought it was so creepy. I was so intrigued to find out who J.W. was? Everyone is a suspect and no one can be trusted. It was a fast paced thriller. This one has a mean girl teenager theme. There were journal entries from Cora that made it a page turner and it also had creepy social media messages that were so creepy.
There also is a mysterious school teacher. The descriptions of what happened to Cora was so awful. It was dark and disturbing and was a thrill ride.

I thought that characters were done so well and loved the writing style.

Then close to the end... It lost its fizzle. I thought this was going to be a five star read but it did a complete u-turn and went south and lost its fizzle. I was so disappointed and upset. I didn't like the ending at all. One thing that I can say about the ending was that this one was not implausible at all and I can see it actually happening in today's society. I thought it was realistic. I just didn't like it. I am in the minority in this one. Lots of others loved it. There are lots of 4 and 5 star reviews, so read those reviews.

This was a Traveling Sister read and we all had mixed feelings. Some loved it others didnt. I loved it until that ending.

I want to thank Edelweiss, the publisher, and the author for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Julie .
3,997 reviews58.9k followers
April 2, 2020
Before She Was Found by Heather Gudenkauf is a 2019 Park Row publication.

Riveting, all consuming suspense!

Almost a year after its release, I finally got around to reading this one! I was immediately sucked into this story and it held my undivided attention from start to finish.

The story is centered around three twelve-year old girls, with various backgrounds, who have a fragile friendship with one another. Cora is a naïve girl who only wants to fit in, Violet is the new kid on the block, and Jordyn, is a bossy, manipulative girl, being raised by her grandfather.

The three girls, after some ups and downs, get together for a sleepover, then decide to sneak out and visit an old abandoned rail yard. If that weren’t dangerous enough, something goes terribly awry that night and Cora ends up in the hospital with life threatening injuries.

What happened to Cora? Who would hurt such an innocent, sheltered young girl?

There is nothing quite as brutal as middle grade angst- especially with girls. This novel explores the trials of adolescence, as a police investigation into Cora’s violent attack exposes closely held secrets and different family dynamics.

The mystery is compelling, and is quite the guessing game- but don't bother trying to figure it out, because it's impossible.

The author employs various tools to tell this absorbing and horrifying tale, including diaries, internet chat rooms, text messaging, and police interviews, and is told from various points of view. While that may sound like the book is too busy, it is an effective approach and works quite well in this situation.

The catalyst behind the events that transpire begins with a school assignment, and leads to an obsession over an old murder case with an urban legend surrounding it. If this sounds eerily familiar to you, it could be because this book is allegedly based on a true crime case with similar elements.

The plot twists are truly surprising, and I was taken completely off guard by how everything turned out in the end. While this is a very creepy, atmospheric novel of suspense, it is also a thought-provoking and disturbing story, with a very unsettling conclusion…
Profile Image for Kaceey.
1,032 reviews3,549 followers
January 24, 2019
Addictive and thrilling!

A vicious attack at the railway. One young girl left maimed and bleeding, with another victim almost catatonic...in shock. The third...surprisingly unwilling to help the authorities!

Cora never really fit in with her peers. Her best friend moved away to another town leaving her alone and desperate to find new friends.

Violet. The new girl in town. Sweet, quiet and unassuming. Her family recently relocated here from New Mexico looking for new beginnings. Actually, the truth is her family ended up here in the middle of this God-forsaken, nowhere town after their car broke down.

Jordyn. The popular girl. The one that rules the school, being somewhat of a bully. Make no mistake. She is always in charge. It’s Jordyn’s way...or the highway!

When a class project brings the three girls together it quickly spirals out of control. The girls’ assignment is to research urban legends. But what if the legend is actually real? Who is safe?

Heather Gudenkauf writes an absolute edge-of-your-seat read that will keep you flip-flopping right up till the end. I was so delightfully surprised by the ending! It isn’t too often I get to be shocked! This one had me! Don’t miss out! Highly recommended!

As always a fun and fabulous buddy read with Susanne!!

Thank you to Edelweiss, Harlequin - Park Row and Heather Gudenkauf for an ARC to read and review.
Profile Image for Melissa.
647 reviews28.6k followers
May 9, 2019
Abandoned @ page 95.

Chalk my inability to finish up to reader preference—in terms of plot—not readability or writing style.

I've been much choosier when it comes to reading selections as of late, cutting ties with books I'm not enjoying, in favor of seeking out those that *demand* my undivided attention.

Heather Gudenkauf's compelling opener convinced me I had to tote her newest release home from the library. My assumptions of what the experience could be versus actuality forcing a hard-stop at 95-pages. Again, it's not the author's style that turned me off per se, but the numerous diary entries written from the perspective of a twelve-year-old. I'm not a middle-grade reader or much of a YA fan, and those were the vibes I was picking up on. And who knows, I might be missing out on something truly fantastic—have you seen all of the favorable reviews?—but that's a chance I'm willing to take.
June 29, 2020
Heather Gudenkauf joined us in The Behind the Pages group for as spoiler-free Q & A to talk about her books and her writing process.

You can view the Q & A here find


My review

Three Girls, an urban legend, a dark obsession and a chilling crime

Before She Was Found is a chilling, unsettlingly realistic, thought-provoking story that explores some teenage drama here with bullying, popularity, fitting in and approval. It goes a little deeper than just mean girls. It also explores friendship, betrayal and the power of social media and the impact it all can have on family dynamics.

Before She Was Found starts off with an unsettling, disturbing and grisly scene and I was turning those pages as fast as I go to unravel what happened. We learn of an urban legend and I was intrigued by it and enjoyed how that played into the story. The suspense and tension in the story increases with each page until that unsettling realistic ending that left me quite upset. I have not had a reaction to a story like I did to this one. I really dislike the ending and had mixed feeling with the way it all came together but I loved the story and the themes and messages that Heather Gudenkauf explored in this story.

I read this one in the Traveling Sister group and it left us with different feelings with that ending. The ending worked for some of us but not for all of us. It really made for an interesting discussion. I highly recommend for book clubs as there is plenty to talk about and explore here.

Thank you to Park Row, EW and HarperCollins Canada for a copy to read and review.
Profile Image for MarilynW.
1,064 reviews2,663 followers
May 21, 2020
Before She Was Found

Twelve year old Cora is found at an abandoned train depot, lying near the railroad tracks, with a broken arm, a stab wound in the torso, and lacerations and blunt trauma to her face. She had been at a sleepover with two other 12 year old girls, Violet, who was found covered in blood, in the same area as Cora and Jordyn who showed up at home not long after Cora was attacked. Cora can't talk and the other two girls are too scared to or don't want to talk.

This is a living nightmare for law enforcement, parents and guardians, the preteens and teens who like to hang out in dark and lonely places, and the city. We learn what led up to the attack from the point of view of Beth, Violet's mom, Thomas, Jordyn's grandfather, Cora's diary, and texts between various kids and others. Social media and bullying adversely affect the lives of the community and there is also an urban legend that is rumored as having something to do with the attack.

I was so interested in finding out what happened to Cora but reading this book is hard to do, knowing the injuries Cora received and the sad way the preteens and teens treated each other. Many things led to this attack, including what the parents and guardians chose to ignore about their children and their community.

Thank you to Park Row/HarperCollins and Edelweiss for this ARC.
Profile Image for Holly  B (busy month catching up).
798 reviews1,802 followers
March 24, 2019

Some mixed feelings about this one!

My favorite element was the different formats that kept it interesting and kept the story moving forward (always a plus), It was a mix of  real time, journal excerpts, different POV's , online chat room discussions and police interviews, BUT I was wanting more follow through to some of the incidents.

I wanted to keep reading on, but wasn't really "enjoying" what I was reading and kept feeling disappointed in the direction it was taking. I liked all the scattering of clues the author provided and I was questioning many of the characters motives throughout.

This was a quick read and had a nice pace, although the ending left me "underwhelmed" and questioning things. The ending could have "saved" this one for me, but ....nah

I do think a lot of thriller fans would enjoy this one and it does have a bit of a YA feel IMO. Definitely check it out if you enjoy a cast of teenagers with a mean streak!

Thanks to the pub. for my review copy! Book comes out April 16, 2019
Profile Image for Felicia.
254 reviews921 followers
December 28, 2018
If Mean Girls and Slenderman had a baby, Before She Was Found would be that baby.

An attempted murder scene, three preteen girls, one missing, one covered in blood and one clinging to life. And all three are utterly unreliable narrators. I mean, what's not to love about that?

The best word I can find to describe this book is gripping. I read it in one sitting, though technically I was lying but whatever, tomayto-tomahto.

Having never even heard of Heather Gudenkauf I had no idea what to expect from this book and oh mylanta was I ever unprepared for what a lay ahead. I was completely absorbed from beginning to end with not only the mystery, but with the perfectly fleshed out characters.

It takes a pretty clever resolution for me to not have a mystery figured out before the reveal but this one got me. Hook, line and sinker. Never saw it coming, never even considered it for one tenth of a second. I challenge anybody that figures out the culprit to reveal themselves so I can call them a liar, liar, pants on fire.

4.5 Stars ⭐ rounded up because it was unputdownable.

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Michelle .
861 reviews1,220 followers
February 11, 2019
Whoa!!! This YA mystery / thriller has exceeded my expectations! See ya, book slump!

Cora is a lonely 12 year old girl, her one and only best friend moved away months ago, so when a new girl, Violet, appears in her class she is over the moon with excitement and wants nothing more than to become friends with this mysterious new girl.

Unfortunately for Cora, Jordyn (the most popular girl in class and mean girl extraordinaire) is also interested in becoming Violets friend. For Cora this poses a huge problem ~ Jordyn makes her life a living hell at school by taunting and teasing her on a daily basis.

Now that they have Violet in common it appears that Jordyn has accepted Cora into her circle of friends. Cora arranges a sleepover at her house for just the three of them. After midnight these young ladies make a decision that will haunt them forever.

How did it come to be that Cora was found bleeding out and nearly dead on the train tracks? How did Violet become covered in blood while walking out from the woods in the distance? And where exactly is Jordyn? You'll have to read this to find out.

I was completely gripped in this mystery from the very first page but I will admit as I neared the end I thought "OH NO, DON'T LEAVE IT LIKE THIS" (I was ready to chuck my kindle into the wall) but as I turned those final pages I had my AHA moment. I see what you did there, Ms. Gudenkauf, and I applaud your cleverness. 4 *what the hell is going on* stars!

Thank you to NetGalley & Harlequin Trade Publishing for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,692 reviews14.1k followers
April 13, 2019
Well this one reeled me in, hook, line and sinker! And no there are no actual fish in this story. Fishy occurrences yes, real fish, no. Though to be honest this author and I have a good relationship between writer and reader.

Three twelve year old girls, sneak out of the house on midnight, of the girl hosting the sleepover. One is discovered in terrible condition, clinging to life after being beaten and stabbed. Another is found covered with blood, in shock but otherwise unhurt. The third ran home and maintains she never went as far as the railroad. Plus, none are saying what happened, blaming it on a person from an urban legend who would now be in his seventies.

Have to admit I'm attracted to urban legends. We have a few in my town, one even made into the movie Munger Road. Plus, what happened to these girls? Enticing read, enticing mystery.Covers also some pertinent themes such as the harm bullying causes. How lying can ruin a person's reputation, even if the lies are proven untrue, doubt sets in. What extent a parent or guardian will go in protecting their children, and the harm of what seems at first a funny prank. So a mystery, a thriller but much more than at first meets the eye. All in all a very good read.

ARC from Edelweiss.
Profile Image for Norma.
551 reviews12k followers
May 16, 2019
Gripping, chilling, & mind-blowing stuff here!

I definitely have to start my review off with a little message to you HEATHER GUDENKAUF, you are by far one of my must-read and absolute favourite thriller writers ever and this book was freakin’ fantastic!!!!

BEFORE SHE WAS FOUND by HEATHER GUDENKAUF is an unsettling, dark, realistic, captivating, thought-provoking and fabulous thriller that pretty much had every aspect that I absolutely love in my thrillers. A haunting and chilling crime, a mysterious urban legend, fantastic storytelling that is absolutely dazzling, and interesting and complex characters to make this an all out absorbing and devouring read.

HEATHER GUDENKAUF delivers quite the clever, intriguing, suspenseful, engaging, and well-written story here that starts off with quite the bang and never lets up to make this quite the tense and edge-of-your-seat read. I absolutely loved the way that this story unfolded in multiple character perspectives and formats including journal entries in Cora’s perspective. I find that this technique is always quite effective, appealing and very suspenseful with slow-burning reads.

There is lots going on behind the scenes in this story that is quite thought-provoking and an important message for us to ponder. In the end I was totally taken by surprise and would have never of guessed the outcome.

Norma’s Stats:
Cover: Although I totally find this cover to be quite appealing and an effective representation to storyline it isn’t the sole reason for wanting or picking up this book. HEATHER GUDENKAUF is a must-read author for me regardless if I find the cover to be attractive or not. Whatever she writes, I will read!
Title: Clever, intriguing, fitting, impactful and a fabulous representation to storyline where the meaning is revealed to us as the story progresses. Love these meaningful titles!
Writing/Prose: Well-written, fluid, mesmerizing, beautiful and engaging.
Plot: Engrossing, clever, suspenseful, thought-provoking, believable, interesting, heartfelt, fast-paced, and entertaining.
Ending: An ending that left me speechless and totally took me by surprise! Loved that I didn’t figure out the outcome until it was revealed to us.
Overall: The story was so darn thrilling, entertaining and absolutely un-put-down-able!!!! Would highly recommend!

Thank you so much to Edelweiss, Park Row & Heather Gudenkauf for the opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book to read and review.

Review can also be found on our blog:
April 18, 2019
3.5 stars. A haunting crime in a small town community.

Twelve-year-old classmates, Cora, Violet and Jordyn sneak out one night to visit the abandoned train yard at the edge of town. A night of sneaky mischief ends with Cora hospitalized with several stab wounds and Violent and Jordyn in shock and confusion as to what happened. Small town secrets are uncovered as the police question everyone connected to the three girls. Were all three girls victims of this brutal attack? Could one of the girls be behind the violent assault?

I was pulled into this chilling story right away. There were some gruesome scenes at the start that were hard to stomach, but the writing kept me intrigued and curious to find out what happened. It was an addictive, quick read that had me making excuses to find time for ‘just one more chapter’.

The novel unfolds through multiple characters perspectives. I did find myself slightly confused near the beginning trying to keep track of who was who, but as the story progressed, it became much clearer and easier to follow. I found Cora’s journal entries distracting which took away from my enjoyment. Her perspective had a lot of childish behavior and mannerisms that felt overdone. The “mean girl” scenes were a bit much. I think I would have enjoyed the novel more had those scenes been toned down.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel and look forward to reading more from this author. This was a Traveling Sister read.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Park Row for providing me with an ARC to read and review!
Expected date of publication: April 16, 2019.
Profile Image for Susanne.
1,157 reviews36.4k followers
January 13, 2019
4.5 Stars

All actions have consequences. When you are twelve years old however, you have absolutely no idea what they are going to be!

Cora has always had trouble making friends. She gets teased and bullied constantly at school, though her parents would never know it. When a new girl named Violet moves to town, Cora has high hopes, especially when they are paired up in class. That is, until Ms. Popular and Cora’s least favorite person, Jordyn, is paired with them. Then all of a sudden things seem a bit better. Even Jordyn starts being nicer to Cora. Be wary however, as no one, absolutely no one, can be trusted.

One night, during a sleepover, the three girls sneak out, going to an abandoned trainyard - eager to investigate for their school project about an urban legend. Two come out unharmed. One girl has significant injuries and it appears as though the other girls may be guilty.. at least of something.

“Before She Was Found” by Heather Gudenkauf is told through several different medium, including text messages, psychologist notes and journal entries as well as several different POV’s - all of which are very effective. Clues are hinted at throughout the book, but I for one, was shocked when all the cards were left on the table. Having read all of Ms. Gudenkauf’s prior books I can emphatically state that this is one of her best. The dynamics between the characters, the build up of the suspense, the emotional roller coaster and the ending! Wowza, what a crazy ride! My heart was thump thump thumping at the end of this one guy and gals!

I highly recommend this one to all fans of fiction and mystery/suspense.

This was a buddy read with Kaceey! We loved it! Thanks for reading it with me Kaceey!

Thank you to Edelweiss, Harlequin - Park Row and to Heather Gudenkauf for an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Published on Edelweiss and Goodreads on 1.13.19.
Will be published on Twitter and Amazon on 4.16.19.
Except to be published on Instagram.

Profile Image for Liz.
1,959 reviews2,407 followers
May 18, 2020
4.5 stars, rounded up
This is only my second book by Heather Gudenkauf, but boy, she does suspense well! This book just grabbed me and never let me go. It’s got that creepy tension that never lets you relax.
The story starts when a preteen sleepover goes horribly wrong. Three girls sneak down to the abandoned rail yard and one is accosted, supposedly by an urban legend.
We hear from a variety of characters, in a variety of mediums - private thoughts, text messages, journal entries, police interviews. I was especially invested in the mother of one of the girls. The book covers bullying, peer pressure,internet trolls. I love that Gudenkauf gets that in between understanding of a 12 year old. She also perfectly captures the lengths that a loved one will go to to protect a child.
I must have changed my mind about 10 times as to who the culprit was . Back and forth my mind went like a ping pong ball. I literally didn’t know until the end.
I listened to this and Brittany Pressley does a great job of differentiating the voices and capturing the emotions of each character.
Profile Image for Berit Talks Books.
2,007 reviews15.7k followers
May 14, 2019
𝓒𝓻𝓮𝓮𝓹𝔂 𝓤𝓷𝓼𝓮𝓽𝓽𝓵𝓲𝓷𝓰 𝓐𝓭𝓭𝓲𝓬𝓽𝓲𝓿𝓮

Heather Gudenkauf has constructed a clever and compelling thriller with a mean girls vibe. Three 12 year old girls at a sleepover sneak out at midnight to the railyard. Cora is found stabbed and beaten, Violet is found soaked in blood, and Jordan is nowhere to be found. As the book progresses we get to know the girls better and understand the relationships between them. The girls had been working on a class project about urban legends, could that have something to do with this tragedy? Three girls with three different stories, what really happened that night? Who is lying? Who is telling the truth? And who can’t remember?

This book had such a creepy feel to it. Not only was there the scary urban legend, but it was so creepy how real this was. As a parent it is definitely scary that a school project could lead to a complete creeper talking to your child online. I remember how vulnerable and insecure I was at 12, so eager to fit in. Thank goodness my own kids were a little more savvy than me, I would’ve been a prime target I’m sure. The story is told from many perspectives and multiple forms of media. There are journal entries, text messages, private messaging on a message board, as well as doctors notes. In addition to this we get the point of view of a mother and a grandfather, I thought this was extremely impactful. There really is no limit to what we will do to protect our children, made me think what I would have done in the same situation. Cora’s journal entries were so heartbreaking and telling. I also felt the doctor’s thoughts added another layer to the story.

This was a riveting story with an unpredictable unsettling end. I had no idea who the guilty party was. Was it the bitchy popular girl? The sweet quiet girl who was easily swayed by her peers? Or was it something far more sinister? This is a thriller that I think will appeal to all thriller lovers. The characters are real and relatable and if you are a parent I think you will really understand where these parents/grandparents were coming from. The book was well paced, I was completely engaged throughout this entire book. Simply put this is an addictive thriller with a riveting plot and relatable characters.

*** many thanks to Harlequin/Park Row for my copy of this book ***
Profile Image for Kendall.
633 reviews632 followers
January 29, 2020
WOW! This was mind-blowing good!

I have always enjoyed Heather Gudenkauf's books but boy did she knock this one out of the park ladies and gents! This exceeded my expectations in every way!

An attempted murder case, three twelve year old girls, one covered full of blood, one on the verge of dying, and another that left the scene. Talk about addicting and thrilling!

I was totally gripped in and mesmerized by Gudenkauf's words from the start. She lays out the characters with such depth and the story takes off from the first scene!

There was SOO many things running through my brain about what was going on with this mystery. And man.... Heather did you fool me girl! Wow... you got me ;). THIS WAS FANTASTIC!

You don't want to miss this book people PERIOD! I highly recommend for my mystery and thriller fans!

5 stars! Yup... people read em and weap! I'm giving this my FULL five stars.... which many of you that watch my reviews know this RARELY occurs. So hurry up get your hands on this.

Huge thank you to Netgalley and Harlequin/Trade Publishing for the arc in exchange for an honest review.

Publication date: 4/16/19
Published to Goodreads: 3/10/19
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,083 reviews30.1k followers
April 3, 2020
Before She Was Found is the first book I’ve read from Heather Gudenkauf! I am impressed! ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Violet, Cora, and Jordyn are twelve-years-old and attending a sleepover like tweens do. They get into mischief by leaving the house to go to an abandoned rail yard.

Cora is found bloody and barely alive, and her friends have disappeared. Small town Iowa is up-in-arms and in the middle of this investigation wondering who could hurt this sweet, young girl, and everyone becomes a suspect.

Before She Was Found feels timely. It reminds me of some incidents in the headlines in recent years where young girls have gotten into trouble. I loved that the book uses therapist’s notes, texts, and journal entries, along with the narrative to tell the story. It added so much interest and really rounded out what we knew.

This book was planned well and came together masterfully. The ending is one I never could have predicted, and I love it when that happens! Before She Was Found is an impeccably-written thriller that kept me in its clutches from start to finish. It was addictive, surprising, and original; everything I want in a thriller!

I received a complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Meredith B.  (readingwithmere).
234 reviews160 followers
April 23, 2019
4 Stars!

She sees herself pushing through the plumes of winter wheat, painting them red as she brushes by, and finally catches sight of him. He pauses and turns to face her. He looks pleased.

Do you remember the Slender Man case in 2014? Two girls lured their friend into the woods and stabbed her 19 times to impress the myth known as Slender Man. If you remember that case then this story has serious Slender Man Vibes. If not, you may want to look it up because it's fairly fascinating.

One night friends Cora, Violet and Jordyn have a sleepover. They wake up in the middle of the night and go out without Cora's parents knowing. Cora ends up on the train tracks hurt and covered in blood. Violet is also covered in blood but off to the side and Jordyn is no where to be found. An investigation is launched and literally everyone is a suspect.

The girls and families need to relive that night but Cora's body is so destroyed that she can barely talk. Violet is in so much shock that she cannot speak to anyone and is afraid to tell anyone what she saw. All Jordyn wants to do is have it all go away and hide. There was typical drama between these three friends before this terrible incident happened. But now they need to find out why these girls were found by the train tracks and what were they doing there?

This was my first Heather Gudenkauf novel and I really enjoyed it. I personally followed the Slender Man case when it was reported on national news and found it quite interesting that children get so involved with mythical characters that they would literally go to any length to please them. The psychology of it is fascinating when you think about it. Think about needing to prove your worth to a fictional character that you have convinced yourself is actually real and is coming to "save" you. You get to wrapped up in this character that even your best friendship becomes a sacrifice.

This book was written in a few different forms: short chapters from characters, Cora's diary, chat room dialogue and text messages. I think this helped flow the story real well. This is a story about young tween/teen girls so the diary entries are written as just that. That's probably the part that I had the most trouble with only because it was juvenile but that's how it should have been written. It was mostly just me looking for more than I should have been based on the story's premise. I also don't have kids so I suppose I'm just not used to it.

Overall I really enjoyed this book. I had no idea what happened until I reached the second to last page and it's finally revealed. I thought the way Gundenkauf set up the characters was great. I suspected most of them at one point in the story. I truly think the best thrillers are the ones that you do not know who did it until the end and your guess is wrong. I love being wrong...in that sense.

If you are a thriller fan, this one is definitely different from your typical adult thriller but it is a great story. This one is out now so pick it up if you are looking for a fairy quick thriller read!

Thank you to TLC Book tours & Park Row Books for my copy of this book!
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,317 reviews4,839 followers
December 23, 2021

3.5 stars

Beth Crow and her family, 16-year-old Max, 12-year-old Violet, and dog Boomer, are relocating from New Mexico to Wisconsin when their car breaks down in Pitch, Iowa.

Beth decides to stay put, so she gets a job in a convenience store; rents a two-bedroom house with peeling paint, no air conditioning, and a temperamental furnace; and enrolls Max and Violet in school. This turns out to be a fateful decision, especially for Violet.

As Violet settles into her new middle school, she makes two 'best friends', Cora Landry and Jordyn Petit. The girls arrange to have a sleepover at Cora's house, with the usual movie and pizza.

Later that night Cora is found - stabbed, bashed, and barely alive - at the town's defunct train depot; Violet wanders out of the nearby grass, severely shocked and covered with blood; and Jordyn is found back at her home, uninjured.

The victims claim the assailant was Joseph Wither, a teenage boy who lived in Pitch 70 years ago. At that time Wither killed a girl out of frustrated love, and he's since become an urban legend - a perpetual teenager who sometimes murders girls and sometimes convinces girls to run away with him.

Cora, Violet, and Jordyn learned about the killer when they teamed up for an urban legend project at school and chose Joseph Wither as their topic.

As the story unfolds, we learn about the girls and their families; the events leading up to the attack; and the repercussions afterward. We find out that Cora is a timid girl with few friends; Jordyn is a perpetual bully and mischief-maker; and Violet is a nice girl who wants to fit in. Add the fact that Cora and Jordyn both like the same boy, and it's a troublesome mix.

Following the attack, the police are pressed to find the 'real perpetrator', but are stymied by overprotective parents/grandparents and lies and evasions by the girls.

The story is told from the alternating points of view of Dr. Madeline Gideon - a psychiatrist; Beth Crow - Violet's mother; entries from Cora's diary; emails; texts; and police interviews. The suspense builds slowly as people do what they shouldn't.....or don't do what they should. It's maddening when a character says 'I know better than to do this'.....and promptly does it anyway.

The story brings to mind the real-life 2014 'Slender Man' incident in which two schoolgirls stabbed their classmate 19 times to please an urban myth called Slender Man.

I enjoyed this well-crafted novel which kept me guessing until the end. Recommended to fans of mystery thrillers.

You can follow my reviews at https://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot....
Profile Image for Jayme.
1,103 reviews1,732 followers
March 31, 2019
I am sure that you have heard about the Slenderman...the tall, spidery figure with the blank face who has inspired stories, video games and movies...

The same one that two twelve year old girls in Wisconsin, tried to appease, when they lured a classmate into the woods, in 2014, stabbing her 19x.

BUT...have you heard about the urban legend, Joseph Wither??

He lived in Pitch, Iowa, in the 1940’s and rumor has it that after he lost his love, Rachel Farmer, he burned down his house and killed several young girls, over the years by luring them to the train tracks....

Beth Crow and her family...a teenage son named Max, a 12 year old daughter named Violet, and a basset hound named Boomer, are relocating from New Mexico to Green Bay, WI, when their car breaks down.....in Pitch, Iowa.

With no money to fix the car, Beth rents the only house she can afford, and accepts the only job available, enrolling her kids in the small town’s school.

Violet’s teacher, John Dover, gives his class an assignment-research an urban legend...and Violet, and her two new friends, Cora and Jordyn, decide to report on “Joseph Wither”.


This assignment becomes the catalyst for Case # 92-10945.

Three twelve year olds go to the train tracks at midnight. One is fighting for her life, shortly thereafter.

Told in two time lines, “Before She Was Found” and after the attack through the various perspectives of parents, text message conversations, journal entries, police interviews, posts on social media websites, and psychiatrist observations, the chapters are short and the pace fast.

I was never confused, nor did I ever feel the urge to skim, despite the fact that the book has a YA feel, and I don’t generally do well with books with pre-teen protagonists.

Tragic because this story is ALL TOO POSSIBLE in today’s UGLY social media world where even 12 year olds feel the social pressure to “fit in” before they can even understand the consequences of their actions...and, with adults unaware of who their children are really talking to...

Not quite as atmospheric, but for readers who enjoyed “The Chalk Man”...this haunting tale might be a book for you!!

I would like to thank Netgalley, Harlequin, and Heather Gudenkauf for the digital ARC I received in exchange for a candid review! Available soon!! April 16, 2019!
Profile Image for Luvtoread.
486 reviews269 followers
April 30, 2021
Exceptional Storytelling!

A suspenseful and frightening story to be enjoyed but also maybe a wake-up call for many parents of young adolescents who believe they know and understand their children.

Three excited little twelve year old girls are having a sleepover and unknown to their parents, they are not planning on going to sleep on this night. They have made plans to go out to the old railway to seek answers about a legend which surrounds a seventeen year old boy who was suspected of killing his parents and then burning his house down before he ran away and has never been found. Several girls have gone missing over the years and the blame has been put on this handsome young man, although this tragic event took place in the 1950's, a couple of the little girls are gullible and naive and believe that Joseph may still be around and they want to make contact with him to see if the urban legend is true. There is so much more to this book, before during and afterward and I don't want to give anything away to the reader who might not have heard of a similar story. Just pick up this book and start reading today and be glad that this novel is fiction!

Heather Gudenkauf has written an exceptional book that vividly captures the thoughts, actions, fears and the naivete of the three girls in this story that you feel as if they could live in your same neighborhood or even next door. I have always been enmeshed in the
"Slenderman" story that has been in the headlines for several years, so I jumped at the chance to.read this heartbreaking and breathtaking novel. The characters are so real and believable that I forgot that I was reading a mystery thriller and I am so glad this was not a true story!

If you enjoy dark suspenseful stories, this is the book for you and I highly recommend picking it up today or adding it to your reading list!!

I want to thank the author Heather Gudenkauf, Netgally and the publisher Harlequin for the opportunity to read this excellent book!
Profile Image for Jess☺️.
457 reviews80 followers
July 8, 2019
Before She Was Found by Heather Gudenkauf is another first book from a new author for me.( Who apparently has a few other books I need to catch up on 🙄)
To start this book felt a little mean girls on speed up until when the urban legend part kicked in it then felt a little slender Man-ish 😬
But then it twists at the end where really it's mental illness.
It's a pacey thriller, which keeps you page flipping because you have this need to know feeling.
It's definitely a one sitting read and a perfect book club/group read kind of book as it splits people into the love it or hate it groups.
I would recommend this definitely 📖
Profile Image for Julie (JuJu).
576 reviews185 followers
April 26, 2019
Short summary:
Hard-to put-down, thrilling, suspenseful, emotional, tragic and absolutely believable! An innocent school project starts a domino effect that leads to a devastating outcome.

My thoughts:
If you haven’t read this author yet...you are in for an addictive ride!

OMG...kids and the internet/social media are a scary combo! Three young girls (12-year-olds) do a school project on a local urban legend. Jordyn is the “ring leader”. Cora and Violet are her naive and eager-to-please schoolmates.

Every school has one of “those girls”...pretty and popular, but a bully and back-stabbing bitch! Even though she treats you terrible—and you don’t really like her—it’s easier to be her friend than her enemy. And she always has a group of “followers” that are happy to join her in her ruthless, relentless and cruel hobbies. “That girl” is Jordyn!

I have found another “MUST-READ” author!

Thank you to NetGalley / Park Row / Heather Gudenkauf for this digital ARC, in exchange for my honest review!

My Rating: 5 ⭐️’s
Published: Published April 16th 2019 by Park Row
Pages: 368

Recommend: Yes!

Book Blurb:
For twelve-year-old Cora Landry and her friends Violet and Jordyn, it was supposed to be an ordinary sleepover--movies and Ouija and talking about boys. But when they decide to sneak out to go to the abandoned rail yard on the outskirts of town, little do they know that their innocent games will have dangerous consequences.

Later that night, Cora Landry is discovered on the tracks, bloody and clinging to life, her friends nowhere to be found. Soon their small rural town is thrust into a maelstrom. Who would want to hurt a young girl like Cora--and why? In an investigation that leaves no stone unturned, everyone is a suspect and no one can be trusted--not even those closest to Cora.

Before She Was Found is a timely and gripping thriller about friendship and betrayal, about the power of social pressure and the price of needing to fit in. It is about the great lengths a parent will go to protect their child and keep them safe--even if that means burying the truth, no matter the cost.
Profile Image for Miriam Smith (A Mother’s Musings).
1,500 reviews152 followers
April 22, 2019
As soon as I started reading "Before She Was Found" by Heather Gudenkauf, I knew this was going to keep me reading well past my bedtime and I thought it an exciting and addictive read, that kept me entertained from the very first page.
I loved all the different voices and variety in styles of narration. Multiple points of view are my favourite way of engaging with a story and reading about each character's involvement in the story from their viewpoint makes for a very interesting and entertaining read. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for an author to get the different perspectives balanced correctly but Heather had got this perfect and the quick change chapters kept my interest piqued.
The setting of the story was Iowa and made for an excellent backdrop, it was truly atmospheric and not an area I remember reading about before. Depicting typical small town on/off teenage friendships and dramas of young girls, not realising the disturbing consequences and impact their actions have, was very realistic. I liked reading how they got involved with the class project they chose on the town's urban legend 'Joseph Wither' and how each of their opinions affected their friendship.
The author based her timely and modern story on the misuse of social media and how the issues of bullying, pretending to be someone else in chat rooms and the perils of unsolicited internet use affects people in today's society. The love of a child and the determination to protect that child, was an excellent focus of the story too and as a parent I could totally relate to.
The denouement was just brilliant and really brought everything together that happened on the night of the attack. Creepy, compelling and highly addictive, I'd happily recommend "Before She Was Found" and although this was a new author to me, I now know she was written other books previously and will hopefully be looking them up to read soon too.
Profile Image for Amy.
1,829 reviews1,860 followers
May 7, 2019
While this is could technically a be YA thriller I want to go ahead and let you know right away that it doesn’t feel like one at all. I myself struggle with YA thrillers but really the only thing that would make it fall into the category is the fact that three of the main characters are twelve year old girls. There is nothing soft about this one, nothing light about the mystery, in fact it’s hard hitting and bold. So if the idea of it being too juvenile has prevented you from reading this one, please know it’s not whatsoever!

I love when an author writes in an original structure and there was plenty of that to love here. You get multiple perspectives, everyone from parents and grandparents to the girls themselves and everyone had such a well developed and individual voice. Cora’s POV was revealed through diary entries which was such an intimate way to learn about her character and there were also transcripts from police interviews, message boards, a therapists notes and text messages that kept things so interesting.

The whole concept of this one was frighteningly timely, I loved how the author took current events and hot button topics and weaved them seamlessly into the plot. As a parent to a child almost the same age as the preteen girls I was horrified by some of the behaviors of the kids, mostly because I know it was an accurate representation of how kids can and do behave. Besides a totally gripping plot, fantastic writing and really well drawn characters, the ending of this one was a true sucker punch. It takes a lot for me to be completely surprised but I was shocked by the end of this one and so awed by the authors cleverness. Highly recommended by me for thriller fans!

Before She Was Found in three words: Timely, Sharp and Intense.

Profile Image for DJ Sakata.
3,022 reviews1,740 followers
May 3, 2019
Favorite Quote:

I’ve always hated the sound of trains— like an old woman screaming in a thunderstorm.

My Review:

I was on edge while reading this brilliantly plotted and well-crafted book, my shoulders were up in my ears and the knots in my neck have additional knots of their own. Heather Gudenkauf is an evil genius and has nimbly contrived a perfectly vexing conundrum that kept me riveted to my Kindle all day. Her word voodoo is strong! Her original and cunningly paced storylines were wickedly confounding and perceptively written from multiple points of view while racking up a multitude of suspects and all kinds of twisty turns and blind alleys.

She embedded her story in a small town in Iowa and devilishly cast her tale with realistically obnoxious teens, vulnerable and insecure tweens, bullies of all ages, mean girl middle school pettiness, oblivious adults, and a seventy-five year old urban legend that just wouldn’t die and was currently being used as bait for a cruel catfish scheme. Each character was uniquely drawn yet this shrewd and devious author is such a wily minx, she taunted and nettled me by never fully fleshing anyone out. Each new piece of information gleaned left me even more curious. I had postulated and cast aside a multitude of theories but only had a small inkling of the actual conclusion. And I must note, Do Pull Inn was truly a smirk-worthy name for a small-town motel.
Profile Image for Louise Wilson.
2,672 reviews1,607 followers
June 6, 2019
Three twelve year olds, Cora, Violet and Jordyn sneaked out to an old abandoned train track during one of their sleepovers. It was midnight, and things stat getting messy very quickly. Just a few hours later the police find them but Cora has been brutally stabbed. Violet is in shock while Jordyn seems to be unharmed but is unwilling to say what occurred.

The story is told from many points of view, from family members, text messages, Doctors notes and journal entries. This is one of those books where I did not know how this story was going to unfold. I was hooked from the beginning, needing to find understand just what had gone on and why it had happened. The author certainly knows how to pull the reader in and keep their attention until the very end. There is a lot of red herrings to put you off the trail, but I was intrigued to find out the answers. A very well written book.

I would like to thank NetGalley, HQ and the author Heather Gudenkauf for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Wendy.
1,612 reviews555 followers
April 30, 2019
Heather Gudenkauf is one of my must read authors and she didn't disappoint with "Before She Was Found".
This story revolves around three 12 yr old girls from a small town, their families and the urban legend that haunts the town. During a sleepover the three girls sneak out at midnight to go to the abandoned train yard to meet the legend. One of the girls is very seriously injured, close to death. What happened? Who committed this heinous crime?
This story tells the tale of pre-teen bullying and the dangers of social media all too often resulting in dangerous consequences.

Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin/Park Row for an arc of this novel in exchange for my honest review.
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