The Otherwoods (Hardcover)
September/October 2023 Kids Indie Next List
“You’ll fall in love with River and Mr. Fluffy Pancakes as they travel to places unknown to save their friend. A mixture of Leigh Bardugo, Neil Gaiman, and a little Stranger Things — but for middle grades! A perfect Spooky Season release.”
— Jenny Gilroy, E. Shaver, Bookseller, Savannah, GA
The Otherwoods is calling. And it won't be ignored.
Some would call River Rydell a 'chosen one': born with the ability to see monsters and travel to a terrifying spirit world called The Otherwoods, they have all the makings of a hero. But River just calls themself unlucky. After all, it's not like anyone actually believes River can see these things-or that anyone even believes monsters exist in the first place. So the way River sees it, it's better to keep their head down and ignore anything Otherwoods related.
But The Otherwoods won't be ignored any longer.
When River's only friend (and crush) Avery is kidnapped and dragged into The Otherwoods by monsters, River has no choice but to confront the world they've seen only in their nightmares-but reality turns out be more horrifying than they could have ever imagined. With only their cat for protection and a wayward teen spirit as their guide, River must face the monsters of The Otherwoods and their own fears to save Avery and become the hero they were (unfortunately) destined to be.
Justine Pucella Winans will have you cowering and cackling as you follow River's reluctant hero's journey, perfect for fans of Doll Bones, Ghost Squad, and Too Bright to See.
About the Author
Justine Pucella Winans is a queer and nonbinary writer who resides in Los Angeles with their husband and orange tabby cat. They graduated with a B.F.A in Acting from Chapman University and now work at a talent agency. Originally from Cleveland, they still say "pop" and have love for the city, just not the cold. When not writing, they try their best at Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, read an alarming amount of manga, and try to make pasta even a fourth as good as their nonna's. Connect with them on Twitter and Instagram @JustinePWinans and www.justinepucellawinans.com.
"River's very human struggles with facing fears, learning to trust in allies, and being truthful about themselves will resonate with many tweens, even the non-magical kind. Mr. Fluffy Pancakes, River's heroic sidekick, leaps off the page with humorous body language and expressions that speak louder than words." - School Library Journal, starred review
“Winans' nightmarish monster realm holds horrors and revelations . . . River's sarcasm injects welcome humor into the narrative, which is as much about their personal journey toward self-confidence and silencing bullies as it is about surviving literal monsters. This reluctant hero will mean the world to many readers and be beloved by all.” —Booklist, starred review
“[An] emotionally complex portal fantasy. . . . Balancing gruesome creature encounters with an empowering meditation on bravery, this middle grade debut offers up a panoply of nightmarish ghouls and harrowing perils, but the real appeal comes from tender interpersonal ties and themes of self-discovery.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“An excitingly suspenseful portal horror led by a cleverly humorous, adorably queer, and intrepid nonbinary tween. . . . The Otherwoods is creepy fun with a queer heart, and a cunning and determined protagonist whose growing self-confidence is a joy to experience.” —Shelf Awareness, starred review
“Spooky, funny, and queer--what's not to love?” —Kirkus Reviews