I don’t even know what to say for this one! First time reading Harlan Coben. It’s not what I was expecting, especially from a bestselling author who numbers Stephen King among his fans (I first added him to my TBR after a mention of one of his books in The Outsider). Those are high standards! And this was . . . not great. And it had such a good premise! Which is almost entirely wasted. It’s your standard, really not all that well-written, thriller. Nothing special about it. And then there’s some occasional truly bizarre moments thrown in that really sat in my head and my head wasn’t sure what to do with them.
The titular boy from the woods is Wilde, a nickname that stuck after he was pulled from the woods where he had clearly been living for years, but no one knows for how long, not even Wilde. Now he’s a grown man, and still no one knows who he is or where he came from. This is the part of the premise that is ignored, and is instead dealt with in book two, which is why I have to read it because I NEED TO KNOW. Here, we just get occasional reminders that Wilde knows the woods well and is a bit of a loner. None of this really affects the main plot of the book, which involves a young bullied girl who goes missing twice, and an EXTREMELY obvious Trump stand-in that is somehow connected to the disappearance.
The resolution to the thriller plot was fine. Again, nothing special. The writing style, though, and the presence of two characters—the Trump stand-in and an attorney who has a personal connection to Wilde—was just . . . weird! Giving details would be spoilers, and honestly, I don’t have the emotional energy to parse it out anyway. Just know that my reaction to these characters, and to the general narrative attitude, was that it felt like the author was simultaneously being that cliched older person who is just mad that things keep changing on him, and then he would turn right around and have characters use dated slang, usually incorrectly, in a way that very much indicated he wanted his characters to be seen as modern and “with it” or whatever the kids are calling cool these days. This did not work.
I don’t really recommend this one. I will be very shortly heading into book two*, which will supposedly unravel the mystery of where Wilde came from and who he is, which is the story he should have been telling this whole time anyway.
ETA: The actual ending, meaning the last two or three pages of the book, were SO BAD. Just straight up bad. Sentimental claptrap that betrays his own characterization.
*I did end up reading book two, which I liked marginally better, but mostly because it negated the terrible ending of this one, and also gave me my answers about Wilde’s origins. Won’t be reading further if there are more books in the series.