Go on a Journey with “Girl in the Woods” (A Book Review)

When you pick up “A Girl in the Woods,” a memoir by Aspen Matis, you may expect to find another clichéd book about a girl hiking a couple miles and “finding herself” in the process.  However, within its pages is a much more in-depth story of a girl overcoming rape and losing the shame associated with it while finding inner strength that she didn’t know she possessed.

On the second night of college, Aspen Matis was raped.  Over the next weeks, she must live through many injustices: her family doesn’t support her, making her feel as though she should be ashamed.  Her school does not punish the boy involved, and the words she spoke as she attempted to stop him from raping her are what cause him to be able to go free.  She must suffer through blame and plods through her first semester of college with few to no friends or support.  What is supposed to be the happiest, most exciting time of a young person’s life, is instead filled with fear, sadness, disappointment, and a cocktail of other negative emotions.  However, Aspen Matis finds a saving grace: hiking.

As the reader finds out, hiking has always been a big part of Matis’ family life.  With only a few weeks left of her first year of college, Matis drops out of school, and escapes to the Pacific Crest Trail to hike the 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada.  In this compelling memoir, the reader follows Matis on her journey as she learns about her strength, what she deserves, and begins to find who she is.  

The story that Matis tells in her memoir is a compelling one. It is written in a way that not only causes the reader to want to know how it will end, but also makes them feel as though they have gone on this journey with Matis.  In her memoir, Matis boldly shares her deepest secrets and shame.  She shares stories of her childhood that one can imagine she never felt comfortable enough to share with good friends, nevermind numerous strangers.  Matis is also able to share her biggest challenges, and how she overcomes her own body as she hikes. Through this sharing of past pain, and sorrows, Matis is able to leave the reader with a message that will resound with every young reader: you can survive anything.