Also by this author: Six Impossible Things
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on September 16th 2014
Genres: Adolescence, Australia & Oceania, Dating & Sex, Depression & Mental Illness, Friendship, Girls & Women, People & Places, Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance, Social Issues, Young Adult
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 love that gets complicated? 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.
In this tender, funny story of first love, good friendship, and going a little bit wild, Fiona Wood introduces two unforgettable girls who discover that before you can be true to yourself, you have to figure out exactly who you are.
This week, I read Wildlife by Fiona Wood. It was a book that had been on my radar for quite some time so when I saw it on the shelf at my local library I couldn’t resist the opportunity to borrow it. Why was it on my radar? First of all, it’s set in Australia and written by an Australian author so with the combination of those two things, I knew that I was going to be hooked. Australia is on my bucket list of one of the places that I want to visit before I die. Secondly, it was described as a contemporary book about growing up and discovering the truth within yourself, your friendships, and your relationships … all while in the Australian wilderness. And finally, it was written in a duel point of view which I usually always find enjoyable.
Basically, Wildlife had a lot of good things going for it. I really liked the setting of the Australian wilderness. Obviously, I have never been there before but it felt very realistic to me. I could visualize the trees, the dirt, the waterfalls, and the wildlife creatures. I also liked the idea of this outdoors camp which is required by the school. I could never picture myself doing the whole outdoor thing for a whole semester. Yes, I’ve been camping before but, it’s usually been for a couple of days. Also, they have to do a solo hike with only their wits and the basics which they learn at the camp. Talk about intense! Being out the wilderness also allowed for many different things to be exposed such as toxic friendships and relationships.
In many ways, Wildlife is a book about personal growth. The two main characters Sib and Lou are completely different but are both going through some very life-changing experiences. Sib has suddenly been thrust into a more popular spotlight which she never expected due to her face appearing on a billboard. She is unsure of what to do about this and as per usual finds herself following the lead of her best friend Holly. Sib is kind of a passive character who has always followed others leads as to not cause trouble or make waves. She never wanted to be put center stage, and this is why she doesn’t know how to deal with what is going on with her now. Lou on the other hand has recently experienced a tragic loss in her life and has not been handling her grief very well. Her family is hopeful that this trip to the wildness with a new school and a new group of students will help breakdown some of the walls which she is experiencing. Where Sib is passive, Lou is more aggressive and isn’t afraid to make comments when things are being done that she doesn’t agree with. Most importantly to the story, she isn’t afraid of Holly which is something that many of the other characters are for one reason or another.
For the most part, Lou is kind of the outsider in this story — she is the observer — and she notices many things before the rest of the characters do particularly, when it comes to the friendship between Holly and Sib. Lou notices how toxic Holly is to Sib before Sib is able to notice it for herself. Like I said, Lou isn’t afraid of Holly so she doesn’t respond to her digs or her taunts, which drives Holly crazy, and makes Lou a target for her aggression. Lou also notices how Holly defines Sib’s life in many ways, and how there is a real lack of honesty within their friendship. I must applaud Fiona Wood for the way that she looked at the dynamics of friendships. Friendships can be very complicated things. They can change and grow stronger or in some cases they can change and suddenly become a less than positive influence on your life. Sometimes it isn’t easy to determine which type of friendship you are dealing with, like in the case of Sib and Holly, until you take a step back and look at the good times and the bad times, and decide if it is really in your best interest to keep your friendship alive.
Personally, I have dealt with a situation like that when I was younger. It was when I was beginning middle school (7th grade). I was close friends with a girl who I had been friends with for a couple years by that point. We started hanging out with this other girl and everything seemed to be going fine. We’d hang out every day at school and occasionally after school as well at one of our houses. Over time though things began to change. Suddenly, they were trying to change my look, offering to let me borrow their more “cool” clothes, and telling me how I should wear my hair. They also wanted me to start wearing make-up which I honestly was not comfortable doing at the time. All of a sudden, I wasn’t good enough for them the way that I was, and being the passive person I was (and still am in many ways), I let them convince me that it was okay for me not to be myself and to become somebody else. My parents could see the changes that were happening to me, and they didn’t like them but when they tried to talk to me about them I remember rationalizing it like Sib did with her mother about Holly. It wasn’t until the two girls got into a massive fight (and you know how massive fights can be when you’re in 7th grade) did I begin to realize that maybe this wasn’t a healthy situation to be in. Especially once I somehow got involved because I wasn’t picking a side and therefore I must have been mad at both of them (7th grade logic). Long story short, I gave back the clothes that I had borrowed, and found a new group of friends. Young girls who were just like me, and who weren’t going to try and change me, or force me to become something I wasn’t interested in. Did I ever speak to those girls again? Yes, I did. I still spoke to the girl who I had been friends with first especially when she eventually also distanced herself from the other girl and decided to focus on more positive and rewarding friendships. Do I regret going through this experience? Not completely as it was a growing experience for me. Did it suck when it happened in 7th grade? Of course it did but I lived to tell about it and was able to learn from it as well.
The pages of Wildlife also hold similar messages about living through a horrible experience and learning from it. Both Sib and Lou are dealing with obstacles in their lives which are keeping them from living and experiencing life the way that they would really like to. Yet, it is the up-hill battle which they must contend with that makes them stronger as individuals, and helps bond them together in ways which were completely unexpected. It was also unexpected the way that it allowed me to reflect on events of my past and compare them to where I am today. Honestly, I really enjoyed reading this one and am so glad to have taken the journey into the wilderness with Sib and Lou.