January 12, 2015


Wildlife‘s poetic and inventive language and alternating voices can be a little challenging to get into, but the rewards are great. It’s another great Australian YA book. Fiona Woods’ writing reminded me of sophisticated YA books by Peter Cameron, E. Lockhart, and Margo Rabb, and though this book is set at a specific adolescent crossroads–is it worth it to treat people terribly? — I could see it crossing over as a New Adult novel. The tone is melancholy, but not indulgent. The issues are germane to adults, if you can submit to the dreaminess of the language and the ruthlessness of the camp setting.

The two main characters are Sib and Lou and the chapters alternate between their voices and perspectives. Lou is mainly preoccupied with grieving for her late boyfriend and writing in the journal that her therapist prescribed. Although she is grieving, she is a strong and confident girl who won’t be pushed around by her less strong peers. Despite their flaws and differences, I found Sib and Lou both to be wise and endearing. Sib describes herself as a feminist and she has a good role model in her mother. However, she has trouble speaking up and knowing who her real friends are. She is ambivalent even when she doesn’t realize it.

There are very interesting references that work for me as a reader: the music of David Bowie, lemon poppy-seed cake and Titanium purple toenail polish, Othello, the song "Blackbird," the French novel The Lost Estate, and the 1985 book Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. It’s cool and interesting without being try-hard. And as much as I love them, not a Smiths reference to be had!

Sibylla, Lou, and Michael have maturity, integrity, and character growth that adults could aspire to. It’s rare, but the love triangles in the book are handled with minimal contrivance and drama. And the Othello parallels are smart.

While the gorgeous cover makes it seem that the book is about romance, it is about friendship, identity, community, and integrity and determining who you are and what you value.

Posted by kathryn at January 12, 2015 04:52 PM
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