September 15, 2014

"The only person you should be is yourself."

Wildlife by Fiona Wood

Release Date: September 16, 2014
Publisher: Hachette | Poppy
Pages: 400 pages
Source & Format: Publisher at BEA; ARC
Series: Companion to Six Impossible Things
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Summary (from Goodreads)
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.

Thoughts on Wildlife
I can't remember when I first heard about Wildlife, but I knew that I wanted to read it when I saw that Mands from The Bookish Manicurist had given it five stars. She's one of my favorite Aussie bloggers, and I love looking through her Aussie lit recommendations. So, I was ecstatic when I saw it was being published in the US... and even more so when Cassie got me a copy at BEA. Wildlife is a follow-up to Six Impossible Things, but it's technically Fiona Wood's US debut. While I might have loved it even more if I'd gotten to read the other book first, I was still totally hooked while reading it!

Wildlife is told from two different perspectives: Sibylla and Lou. Both girls are attending an outdoor education program through their school. Sib has been around the other students for years, but she's thrust into the spotlight after modeling for a global advertising campaign. Suddenly, she's experiencing unexpected friendship drama and boy troubles. Lou, on the other hand, is the new girl. She's experienced heartbreak and has no interest in trying to fit in with her classmates - she just wants to make it through another day. But, despite her best efforts, she finds herself drawn into the drama surrounding her.

Here's the thing about Wildlife - I adored it, but I don't think it will work for everyone. The writing style is kind of different, and there's not a lot that happens in it. Personally, I really liked the writing style, but I'm not sure everyone will connect to it. The one thing that did bother me was that it wasn't immediately obvious that the chapters were alternating between two characters. It took me several chapters before I realized that Lou's chapters were dated (like a journal) and Sib's were not. The two girls have pretty distinct voices, so I'm not sure how I didn't pick up on it sooner, but I still wish it had a been a little clearer from the beginning.

Since it's not action heavy, it focuses mostly on character development and the different relationship dynamics. Sib is facing pretty typical teenage issues - how she fits in with others, tension with her best friend, Holly, and a budding relationship with a popular boy, Ben. Her relationship with Holly was so frustrating, but I thought it was so realistic. I think one reason I loved this book is because I related to Sib's inability to see Holly clearly and the way she feels kind of unsure of herself. Lou's issues are much heavier - she's lost someone important to her, and her grief is palpable on every page. While I didn't relate to her in the same way I did Sib, I felt more emotional reading her sections of the book. I truly hurt for her. I thought the secondary characters were really memorable - though Michael was my favorite by far!

Their stories may seem like complete opposites, but they complemented each other so perfectly. Wood explores so many things in the pages of Wildlife - friendship, grief, sex, jealously, popularity, beauty, identity, and loneliness. It's a coming-of-age story that felt raw and real, and I absolutely loved it. The pace is slower, but I still finished it within hours. I think my favorite thing was that it seems so simple on the surface but had so much depth and complexity at its heart.

I can't really explain it, but Wildlife reminded me of why I really love Aussie YA - the characters were realistic, the writing was so unique and the setting was the perfect backdrop for everything that unfolded. There were so many passages I wanted to highlight and revisit, which is always the sign of a great read for me. It has introduced me to a new favorite voice in Aussie lit, and I'll be tracking down a copy of Six Impossible Things as soon as possible. While I wouldn't recommend it to everyone, it was a practically perfect read for me!

So Quotable 
“... my heart is its own fierce country where nobody else is welcome.”
-------
"And if I don't keep you always in my mind, won't memory walk away? Or starve thin? Don't memories need maintenance?"
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review.

1 comment:

  1. I've already told you that I tried to read Wildlife, but just couldn't get into it that first time. Your review, however, makes me want to give it another shot! I do love a good character-driven novel, and Aussie YA has always been solid reading for me. While it might not be right away, I'm definitely going to keep Wildlife on my TBR in preparation for a time when I'm in the right mood for it!

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