Title: The Forest of Stolen Girls
Author: June Hur
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publishing Date: 2021
Genre/Format of the Item: Book
A Junior Library Guild Selection
A 2022 Edgar Allan Poe Award Nominee
A YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Selection
A 2022 ALA Rise Selection
A 2022 CCBC Choices Selection
Reading Level/Interest Level:
NoveList: Grades 6-12
‘The moment I chose to help you, I realized something’. Gahee finally lifted her gaze up to mine, and it was like seeing the faintest flicker of light in the darkness of night. ‘Doing what is right, it is so utterly terrifying. And yet so freeing'” (Hur, 2021, p307).Hur, J. (2021). The forest of stolen girls. Feiwel & Friends.
Plot Summary: The Forest of Stolen Girls opens with an excerpt out of Detective Min’s journal, detailing the mysterious crime that he had never been able to solve, a crime that involved both of his daughters in his home village. Min Hwani is then introduced to the reader as a headstrong young woman who was traveling from China to Korea in search of her missing father. Min Hwani had moved away from Korea five years prior, leaving her sister with a local shaman who was to train Min Maewol as a protégé. The estranged sisters share a traumatic event that left Min Hwani with no memory of the event and Min Maewol with only bitterness. Min Hwani begins her quest to solve the mystery of her missing father and eventually Min Maewol joins her. Together they must face their past and work together to solve not only their father’s disappearance but also the disappearance of 13 girls from the village. There are many dead ends and many possible perpetrators. Min Hwani and Min Maewol learn to trust each other and themselves as they race against time to solve the case. Many times, their own lives are put in danger as they try to solve the mysteries. Familial ties and wavering loyalties create a tale of intrigue and mystery that will leave the reader guessing who the perpetrator was until the very end!
Author Background: June Hur was born in South Korea but has lived most of her life in Canada. She did attend high school in South Korea. She studied Literature and History at the University of Toronto. She has worked for the Toronto Public Library. She is the author of three Young Adult books and is set to publish one more in 2024. She currently resides in Toronto, Canada with her husband and child (Jane Hur, n.d.).
Critical Evaluations: I usually do not read mysteries and thriller books because I don’t like the added stress that it creates while I read. I was immediately immersed in the mystery of The Forest of Stolen Girls, and I finished the book in two days. The premise was intriguing and June Hur created a very well-crafted mystery that catches the attention of her readers with the first page. I liked the historical fiction aspect of the story, as it gave more depth and authenticity to the characters and the setting. The plot had many twists and turns which kept me anxious and invested in reading more of the book. What I really loved is that Hur was able to expose the vileness of human trafficking, while showing how the victims still maintained their dignity as best that they could. This book is about hope and overcoming the challenge of not falling into a trap of despair and inaction when faced with seemingly impossible decisions. There were many brave women in this novel, women who showed fierce determination to rise above the restrictions that were placed on their lives by fathers and men in charge. This is also a story about family love and loyalty and about the complicated, messy form that love sometimes takes. I think that teenagers will appreciate the strong female characters and many may find that they can relate to the characters and the characters’ will to find the truth and face challenges head on. Overall, this was an engaging historical mystery that teens may find enthralling and relatable because the main characters are teenagers also.
Creative Use for a Library Program: This book could be used in a library program that focuses on mysteries from many cultures. This book could be hightlighted as an excellent example of historical mystery fiction. Teens would be invited to listen to a local university professor discuss creative writing and how to weave history into fiction.
Speedround/Book Trailer: Min Hwani wants nothing more than to find her father and will go to great lengths to solve the mystery of his disappearance. Min Maewol, her estranged sister, joins her search and together they race against time to find answers to questions, both about their father and the 13 missing girls from their little island village. The truth is never as it seems and the sisters must find the killer before the killer finds them! Read haunting tale in The Forest of Stolen Girls to find out more!
Potential Challenge Issues/Defense Preparations: This book deals with death and the human trafficking of young girls. These themes may elicit potential challenges for this book to be removed from a school library, or possibly a public library. The author treats the human trafficking with disdain and describes how many people fought against it. The author also describes the different reactions that people may feel after a traumatic event. Min Hwani’s memory seemed to erase the event, while Min Maewol never forgot that night. This may be something that some teenagers can relate with.
Reason for Inclusion: It is important for me to have a variety of authors and genres in my blog. This book offered both historical fiction and mystery, and was written by a woman who was born in South Korea (the book takes place in historic Korea). I was immediately immersed in The Forest of Stolen Girls and thought that teens might enjoy the book as well.
Check Out June Hur’s Other Books!
Hur, J. (2021). The forest of stolen girls. Feiwel & Friends.
Hur, J. (2022). The red palace. Feiwel & Friends
Hur, J. (2020). The silence of bones. Square Fish.
Jane Hur. (n.d.). About me. https://junehur.com/
Moorseville Public Library. (2021, June 22). The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur (MPL book trailer 694) [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJneOG5uhC4