Book Thoughts: “The House in the Pines” by Ana Reyes

Goodreads Rating: 3.2/5 

Mine: 3/5 (What I read)  

I did not finish this book. 

I made it to the halfway point before deciding not to continue, even though part of me wished I could. The book had great promise: a series of strange deaths, a protagonist of mixed descent finally ready to face her bogeyman, a father’s secret work, and a mysterious house in the woods tied to a murderer.  

However, Maya, was just not likable. At least, not to me. I couldn’t connect with the main character on any level (even the mixed heritage point). The chapters where the book touches on her Guatemalan blood (from her dad’s side) seemed shallow, though I truly wish the author would have fleshed this aspect of Maya out more. I enjoyed the mystery behind discovering her father’s book, and really wanted a hint to the secrets it held earlier in the story. However, this aspect was often overshadowed by flashbacks about other aspects of Maya’s life, that I almost forgot about the book altogether.  

I felt like there were many missed opportunities. Fleshing out Aubrey (and her possibly toxic friendship) earlier on rather than spending time on Dan, who pretty much disappears after the first few chapters. Also, fleshing out Maya’s connection with her grandmother, whose funeral she insisted on attending. Though, the reader didn’t get to meet the grandmother even in death. She remained an abstract. Perhaps it was an active choice not to show the grandmother during her funeral, and keep her as an abstract presence, but, it would have made death more concrete for Maya to have engaged with her grandmother’s body. It’s how we say goodbye, and gives things finality. That said, I enjoyed the description of the funeral procession through the graveyard. For some reason, graveyards in Latin America have a slumbering tranquility to them that I haven’t felt here in the US.

Also, there were large blocks of unnecessary backstory that slugged down the pace and took space away from the other competing themes.  

However, despite the points I mentioned, Reyes succeeded in creating a character in Frank that was both creepy and manipulative. Dude was slimy as all heck, and I felt my heart race during the chapters where he interacted with young Maya. Teenage girls are vulnerable, and he played on her need for validation and acceptance so well that you didn’t realize it was manipulation until several encounters later.  

Overall, The House in the Pines was not a book for me, but it was ambitious and created a villain that was believable in his sliminess. I look forward to reading Reyes’ future work.