Review Blog

May 31 2013

Wildlife by Fiona Wood

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Pan Macmillan, 2013, ISBN 9781742612317.
(Age 15+) Highly recommended. Coming of age. Wood brings back Lou from Six impossible things in this wonderful adolescent novel that explores friendship, love and fitting in. Crowthorne Grammar has an outdoor education camp for a term and Lou as the new girl, grieving over the death of her boyfriend, rooms with five other girls. Close living is inevitable and she becomes intrigued with the drama between best friends, Sibylla and Holly, that unfolds over the course of the camp. Sibylla has arrived at the camp with the school buzzing about the 20 metre billboard that has her face plastered over it and finds that Ben Capaldi, the most popular boy at the camp, is interested in her. Holly seems to be encouraging the romance but her actions don't show evidence of being loyal to Sibylla and then there is Michael, who has been Sibylla's best friend forever. Lou has to decide whether she will become involved in the relationships that are undermining Sibylla's self confidence.
Very clever writing brings to life what happens when teens are all living together in an outdoor education setting. I loved the character of Lou, her grief not overcoming her ability to make wry observations about what is happening around her. Holly was perfectly portrayed as the nasty friend and Sibylla as the laid back girl who was prepared to forgive her. Michael as the complete nerd who can run, but who is a misfit, is a beautifully rounded character, while readers will recognise Ben Capaldi, the smart popular boy who seems to have everything. The romance between Sibylla and Ben is handled sensitively and will give teens some pause for thought about beginning first sexual relationships. Some hints about sexual safety are also thrown in with advice from Sibylla's mother who is a counsellor.
The themes of first love, grief, friendship and fitting in are all wonderfully explored against a background of becoming fit, running and solo hiking in the wilderness. This is quality fiction that teens will love and would be an excellent literature circle book or class text for older teens.
Pat Pledger

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