Into the Forest – coming of age in the apocalypse

into the forest

Title: Into the Forest
Author: Jean Hegland
Year published: 1998
Genre: Post-apocalyptic, near, psychological.
Threat: Plague, crumbling society.
Two words: Feminist awakening.








A story of self-discovery first and apocalyptic themes later, Into the Forest could almost work without the disastrous setting. A début novel that charts the isolation, the conflict, and above all the drive for survival of two sisters, it is a piece of literary fiction, rather than conventional sci-fi – an exploration of psychology and a coming-of-age tale – and along that line it finds both appeal and alienation in the genre.

What’s Into the Forest About?

Something has happened, and society is falling apart. Illness is wiping people out, power is failing and rumours have spread that the government is collapsing. With a typical genre trope, we’re never really sure what has happened, or why, but the bottom line is society has fallen apart, and the central characters are fighting for survival. The twist in this case – the central characters are two girls, one on the cusp of adulthood, the other obsessed with ballet. Living in the woods, their parents gone. Together, they must learn to live with the resources around them. And with each other.


Why read Into the Forest

This novel is a stark character study, charting the development of these girls into young women. Their fight is as much with their own feelings and understanding of each other as it is with the fundamental necessities of survival. As such, it’s both a psychological and a physical struggle. It’s a carefully structured novel, covering as much ground before the disaster as after as we see the girls struggling to grow up, coping with teenage woes both before and after everything goes wrong. It paints a vivid picture, in a more personal and realistic account than much post-apocalyptic fiction achieves – a scenario you can really imagine, however unwelcome it might be.



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