Author: Fiona Wood
Release Date: September 16, 2014
Source: ARC from Publisher
During a semester in the wilderness, sixteen-year-old Sib expects the tough outdoor education program and the horrors of for 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 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.
Every so often, I get really excited about a book and it feels like I'm the only one who's even heard of said book. That's kind of what happened with Fiona Wood's Wildlife. I've seen a few things here and there about the book, but for the most part I haven't heard all that much about it. In reality, lots of people should be talking about Wildlife because it was a really great read about friendship, first love and grief.
Sib isn't particularly looking forward to spending a whole semester out in the wilderness, even if it means spending a whole semester away from her family. But things are looking up after her face appears on a billboard thanks to her godmother and an unexpected kiss from popular boy Ben. Now if only she knew how to navigate her new found popularity and the potential for a first love with Ben. Lou isn't interested in fitting in at her new school, she only wants to get through this semester in the wilderness and go home. She doesn't want to get dragged into anything, but as drama starts to unfold in front of her, she can't help be drawn into it. The semester doesn't turn out anything like Lou and Sib thought it would, but they learned a lot more than they thought they would.
I feel like Fiona Wood's Wildlife has pretty much flown under the radar. Maybe it's because the book has already been out for over a year in Australia, but I just haven't heard all that much about it on this side of the world. Or maybe I just haven't been paying enough attention and people have actually been talking about Wildlife. The point I'm trying to get to here is that more people should really be talking about Wildlife because it was a great book. It focused on everything I like my contemporary stories to to focus on. There was romance, there was friendship, there was drama, there was grief. Really, this book had it all. But it didn't feel as heavy as you would think. Through it all, there was a good dose of humour, from both Sib and Lou. Each girl had their own way of telling their story and that's part of what made Wildlife so interesting to read. While parts told from Sib's point of view were written in what I would consider traditional first person narrative, the parts from Lou's perspective were written as if she were talking directly to the reader. And in a way, she was. Lou's part of the story was written as if she were writing her journal, and that journal is all about what she would be telling Fred, if she still could. There were moments when what Lou was "writing" would simply break my heart. But then a few sentences later, she would make me smile through the tears that were threatening to fall. All that to say, it was all written a way that always managed to pull at my heartstrings.
Sib and Lou were very different. For a good chunk of the story, it felt like they were complete opposites, or at the very least, that they had completely opposite goals for their semester away from home. It felt like Sib was doing whatever she could to try to fit in, to make sure she was doing the right thing so she could continue going out (or as much going out as you can do when spending a semester in the wilderness) with popular boy Ben. But it never seemed to be enough, or that's what her best friend (and I use the term loosely) Holly would lead her to believe. Sib and Holly's friendship was the definition of toxic. The whole time I was reading, I was just waiting for Sib to finally realize that the last thing Holly had in mind was Sib's best interest. On the flip side of all this, there was Lou who was pretty much determined to be a wallflower. She definitely had a lot to deal with and I loved seeing her work her way through her grief and join the world of the living again. Through it all, I found it interesting to see that despite their different goals, Lou and Sib actually had a lot more in common than they would have originally thought. It just took them a little longer than me to realize it.
Fiona Wood's Wildlife was a different kind of book, but in the best way possible. It was a great story that dealt with all the subjects you come to expect from contemporary YA: friendship, first love, loss, and finding your way in the world, all with nature as a backdrop.