Book review: The Forest Demands Its Due by Kosoko Jackson

Before I get into the proper review, I want to mention that I just joined The Storygraph, which is a new alternative to Goodreads. If you are worried about losing all of your collected ratings and reviews, you can export your stuff from Goodreads, and then import it to The Storygraph. (Which does take a while, but I can confirm it got both my ratings and reviews over.) Anyway, if you want to check out my profile click here. And if you’re already a member and want to add me as a friend, please do. I don’t yet know anyone over there, and it’s kinda lonely. (‘;_;)

With that out of the way, you may notice that this is my first book review of the year, and I hope to do more of these in 2024. One because I’ve missed reviewing books, and two because most of the games I’m playing lately need a lot more than a week to get through. (And I was serious about playing Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands again. In fact I’m playing two builds on alternating days, it’s that good. But I digress.) Don’t call it a resolution, more like a flickering flame of hope. I can say that it would be a hope easier to keep alight if all the books I tried were as good as The Forest Demands Its Due.

I will confess though, that for someone who has often lamented not judging books by their cover, the vividly, morbidly gorgeous cover was definitely what caught my eye and convinced me to go to Amazon to read the blurb. Everything about it, from the creepy scrawled font to the spooky forest background and deer skull with majestic antlers spoke to me, and it said, “Zoe, this is a book for you.”

And I said, “Okay!”

Right from the first page, the introduction of Douglas Jones hit me in all the feels. His reasons for being in the counselor’s office for “anger issues,” his troubled path leading him from a familiar home into the hallowed halls of a prestigious private school, and his inability to just go with the flow like everyone is telling him…yeah, all of that speaks to so many of my own life experiences.

So of course I was hooked even before the story began to flesh out  the curse that hangs over everyone at Regent Academy, and boy howdy, this curse is a doozy. I’d love to talk about how scary it is conceptually, but that would be spoiling the reveal. But I can say, the longer I thought about it, the scarier it felt.

What I will talk about in more detail is the monsters of the book, who come in two flavors. Emissaries are like giant guardians of the titular forest that surrounds the academy and partly swallows the nearby town, Winslow. Each one is different, and the descriptions of them start out mysterious, but get more vivid later on. I’d like it to the original Alien, when at first all anyone could see was a vague outline, maybe a flash of teeth and a splash of blood. But that kind of slow reveal worked for me because then it ratchets up the tension for the big reveal, instead of trying to keep the same scariness going with constant added details.

The second crew of monsters are called Perversions, and they’re created from the victims of the forest. Much like the Emissaries, their appearances are all radically different, mixing rotted wood and back with animal and human features to great effect. However, they get more detailed description earlier, perhaps because the Emissaries only patrol the forest, while the Perversions are more invasive for reasons that get explained near the end of the story.

There’s also other bad guys, but it’s best to sort out on your own who they are. I’ll say that when one of them was revealed, I went, “Oh yeah, that makes sense.” They just oozed evil intent, you know?

I’ll give The Forest Demands Its Due 5 stars. I’d recommend it to fans of YA horror who want a little slice of gay romance on the side. Also, I’m going to have to stay on the lookout for more novels from Kosoko Jackson, because he’s rather good.