Cover of The Forest Demands Its Due, featuring a deer skull with antlers highlighted in red in front of a spooky forest

About the Book

Title: The Forest Demands Its Due
Published: 2023
Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Cover Story: Spooky
BFF Charm: Yay
Talky Talk: In His Head
Bonus Factors: Paranormal Creatures, Doug Jones
Factor: Boarding School
Anti-Bonus Factors: Awful Grown-Ups
Relationship Status: Willing But Wary

Content Warning: The Forest Demands Its Due features gory death scenes and instances of homophobia and racism.

Cover Story: Spooky

This set of deer antlers has a menacing aura. It’s definitely not the kind you’d see hanging on the wall of a hipster dive bar. It’s the kind that, if you were on a hike and you saw this hanging in a tree along the path, you’d get the heck outta doge as fast as your boots could carry you. And absolutely not linger after the sun went down.

The Deal: 

Douglas Jones is a student at the super secretive and highly prestigious Regent Academy, but he doesn’t fit in. For one, his mother’s the school nurse, not the president of a company or ambassador to a foreign country. Secondly, he’s black. And third, he can hear the forest surrounding the school talking to him. 

There are rumors that the kids at the school and the residents of the small town of Winslow, Vermont, are cursed. Even with the voices, Douglas doesn’t quite believe it. Until the day two students enter his mother’s infirmary, grievously wounded. And the next day, no one remembers one of them, save Douglas and the boy who survived.

BFF Charm: Yay

Yay BFF Charm

Although Douglas has a few good people in his life, there’s a black cloud hanging over his head thanks to an incident from his recent past in which he was convicted of (accidentally) killing two dozen people in an apartment fire. He swears he didn’t do it, but no one believed him—and even his mother might have her suspicions. He’s given an opportunity to do great things at Regent Academy, but even the people who are on his side look down on him because of where he came from and what he looks like. I would love to be another of those good people in his life, and I promise that I’d do my damndest to believe his truths, even when they seem like fiction. He’s so, so deserving.

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Douglas is gay, but he’s never kissed a boy. He’s drawn to a fellow outcast student, Everett Everley, but isn’t sure if Everett feels the same. And he really isn’t sure that Everett is the right kind of person to give his heart to. As the two spend more time together, Douglas learns more about the person Everett really is, and although there are dark marks in his ledger, too, Everett’s dedication and self-sacrificing nature show Douglas that sometimes it’s what underneath that truly matters. And sometimes you just gotta put yourself out there or you might die before knowing the truth. (And getting a smooch!)

Talky Talk: In His Head

The Forest Demands Its Due is told through Douglas’s perspective, and while he’s a somewhat typical teenage boy in his worries and confidence issues, he’s also a truly fascinating person with a lot to offer the world. It was enjoyable being in his head and reading his conversations with and thoughts of the people in his life—even when things get grim.

So seeing him inside the school with his shaggy hair, dirty jeans, faded checkered shirt, and insulated vest? It’s strange. Because for the first time since coming to Regent, I feel like I really see him.

But even stranger? Seeing him with a ripped shirt and what looks like three jagged slashes from a bear’s claw on his chest, a grisly image partially hidden by the body he’s carrying—a student, with torn clothes and a mangled body like he was tossed around by a pack of wolves and left for dead.

Ed. note: I pulled this quote from an advance review copy of the book; the final text might be different.

Bonus Factor: Paranormal Creatures

Jacob and Edward from Twilight stare at each other in front of a forest background

The creatures that live in the forest are beautiful in their horror. Would I like to run into one after losing my way on a walk? HELL NO. But I like reading about them from the comfort of my well-lit living room.

Bonus Factor: Doug Jones

Doug Jones as Human Saru Star Trek Discovery

The actor Doug Jones has nothing to do with this book (although he’d likely do a great job of portraying someone in an adaptation), but I adore him and couldn’t help but think of him while reading.

Factor: Boarding School

Regal old boarding school building with turrets and ivy on the stone walls

Some boarding schools seem like fun places to go, even if they’re populated by students who are more terrible than good. But some, like Regent Academy, are places I would never like to visit much less attend. Even if the idea of a school on the edge of a magical forest is a really cool one.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Awful Grown-Ups

Boxtrolls characters

Although Winslow is cursed because of the actions of a few individuals who lived hundreds of years ago, humanity really hasn’t gotten any better. And a few of the cursed individuals are just as bad, if not worse, than their ancestors.

Relationship Status: Willing But Wary

Our time together was a strange one, Book, and more than a little unsettling. I have hopes that your future’s looking bright, though, and I wouldn’t mind being a part of it. When things settle a bit. I’m really not good with things that go bump in the dark.

Literary Matchmaking

The Luminaries (The Luminaries #1)

Susan Dennard’s The Luminaries features a secret society of families who keep the world safe by hunting paranormal creatures in a nearly sentient forest.

The Buried and the Bound (The Buried and the Bound #1)

Rochelle Hassan’s The Buried and the Bound is another book about a young person who must give up everything to keep loved ones and a city safe.

The River Has Teeth

Erica Waters’s The River Has Teeth is set in another spooky forest with secrets hidden amongst the trees.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Quill Tree Press, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. The Forest Demands Its Due is available now.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, son, and dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.