Friday, September 19, 2014

Wildlife by Fiona Wood

The Basics:
Wildlife by Fiona Wood
Published September 16, 2014
Source: Received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Why I picked up this book:

Could not resist the gorgeous cover.


During a semester in the wilderness, sixteen-year-old Sib expects the tough outdoor education program and the horrors of dorm life, but friendship drama and an unexpected romance with popular Ben Capaldi? That will take some navigating.

New girl Lou has zero interest in fitting in, or joining in. Still reeling from a loss that occurred almost a year ago, she just wants to be left alone. But as she witnesses a betrayal unfolding around Sib and her best friend Holly, Lou can't help but be drawn back into the land of the living.

Fans of Melina Marchetta, Rainbow Rowell, and E. Lockhart will adore this endearing and poignant story of first love, true friendship, and going a little bit wild.

My thoughts:

Wow, wow, wow.

Wildlife is beautiful, heartwrenching and made me nostalgic for my teenager years. It's brutal and honest and I think captured the teenage experience with nearly impossible accuracy.

The pressures and rhythms of friendship, the bewilderment of an outsider - the potential and threat of an outsider. The burgeoning awareness of sex, the gossip, the judging of others, the gossip about gossip. Feeling about it all, feeling apart form it all, yearning to belong, yearning for more, for less. Wildlife is brilliant at conveying teenage life.

I loved these characters. I could see elements of teenage me in almost all of them, and certainly in Holly (the bitchy best friend), but also in Sib. They felt like real people, real teenagers making good and bad decisions. Testing their boundaries, I did wonder at just how much they got away with - but then, didn't we all get away with things we'd rather our parents not... acknowledge, at least?  

The idea of spending a term at a camp as happens in this book is so far beyond my own experience, the idea is both lovely and terrifying. I appreciated how Wildlife identified both the freedoms and restrictions of camp life, as well as illustrating how the unfamiliar space quickly became 'normal' as everyone adjusted to life there.

I'll be interested to see these same characters in a more traditional high school setting, presuming the next book Wood writes uses the same students (please, oh please). I did think that there were some kids in this book who were far more articulate than I think teenagers are. Perhaps the school system in Australia is simply far superior than the one I'm familiar with.

I absolutely loved the way that the story was delivered, with Lou and Sib providing perspectives. Lou's journal entries were a particular delight. The quick chapters reminded me of James Patterson's work, but with an overall higher quality of writing. This results in the perfect quick read for a discerning, modern audience. 

Bottom line:

I fell in love with the characters in Wildlife and I sincerely hope that we get more of them (even in the background) in Fiona Wood's next book. Strongly recommend.

5 stars
For fans of young adult, excellent books.

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