Written by: Fiona Wood
Original Country of Publication: Australia
Published by: Poppy; originally published June 2013 by Pan Macmillan Australia
Publication Date: 9/16/14
Review Copy Provided by: www.netgalley.com
In Short: When 16-year-old Australian students spend a semester in the wilderness, it’s not just nature they have to brave: they also have to figure out how to spend a semester living in close quarters with each other.
Recommendation: Very good – give it a read.
And then there’s Lou, the new girl. She doesn’t want to be there. She doesn’t want to get to know anybody. She just wants what she can never have: to turn back time, so she won’t lose the thing that was most important to her. However, when Lou is housed with Sib and Holly, and sees the drama unfolding around them, she is forced back into the world to confront both her past and her future.
The semester in the Australian outback is meant to teach the students about nature and how to fend for themselves, but it ends up teaching them much, much more.
Thoughts: Told through the alternating perspectives of Sib and Lou, two girls who don’t know each other when the book begins, Wildlife is a very realistic, entertaining, and moving coming-of-age story about a unique semester in these teens’ lives. Wood does especially well with Sib’s struggle with how far to go physically with Ben, and how hard it is to deal with peer pressure and the feelings that you are supposed to be doing things that you are not. Wood also makes a really interesting choice with Sib, and I won’t spoil it for you, but it’s one that is both realistic and important for teens (and adults, for that matter) to see someone make. Lou's grief and depression are very realistically portrayed, and Lou is a very refreshing character: she is unapologetically herself, and she stands up to what she knows is right, without question. This is also a fun book, despite some very heavy subject matter, because it has a great camp-like setting, romance, pranks, and some soapy drama. Although the teens hate the wilderness at first, there’s definitely an element of wish-fulfillment reading about it. Spending a semester living with friends? Sounds both great and terrible, and Wood deftly captures both sides of the experience.
Side Note: In my book, any book that has casual references to Friday Night Lights and Tim Riggins has to be great.