Review & Giveaway: Wildlife by Fiona Wood

Title: Wildlife

Author: Fiona Wood

Published: Pan Macmillan May 2013

Read an excerpt

Status: Read on May 27, 2013 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Wildlife is Fiona Wood’s companion novel to her popular young adult contemporary debut, Six Impossible Things.

Sibylla is used to people looking past her, around her, through her even, but that all changes the day her face appears on a 20-metre billboard and Ben Capaldi, the most popular boy in year 10, kisses her.

“So the Earth must be spinning of it’s axis by now, plummeting headlong towards a new universe, oceans sloshing and spilling, icecaps sliding, trees uprooted. Because somehow I’ve stepped over the line to stand with the popular girls. Only I haven’t. The line must have moved without me realising.”

Coping with her shift in status is disorientating for Sibylla, despite her best friend’s coaching, especially as year 10 have to spend the next nine weeks camping together at their Grammar school’s outdoor education camp in the highlands of Victoria.

“Now all I have to do is blend in, zone out and start crossing off the days on my cell wall”

Lou (from Six Impossible Things), new to Crowthorne Grammar, couldn’t care less about Sibylla, Ben or the whole social milieu. Still grieving the accidental death of her boyfriend, Fred, she aims only to endure the term bunking with five strange girls.

Contrasting Sibylla’s tentative negotiation of love, sexuality and friendship with Lou’s grief and hard earned self awareness, Wildlife is a thoughtful coming of age story.

It explores the dynamics of self image and self esteem, highlighting how vulnerable teens can be to the perceptions of others. Sibylla in particular struggles with her desire to fit in and be considered as worthy of Ben’s interest. Woods captures Sib’s conflicted thoughts and behaviour wonderfully and it is this insightful comment from Lou that articulates the lesson Sib needs to learn.

“Sometimes I think I see you, Sibylla, but then you get all blurry about what people think about you, how you should act, what everyone expects of you, who you are pleasing, or not… The only person you should be is yourself. You can’t control perception. All you can control is how you treat someone else.”

The complexities of teen relationships also comes under scrutiny in Wildlife. Holly’s fickle friendship and Michael’s devotion highlights the extremes of loyalty. Again it is Lou’s wisdom that helps Sibylla recognise the value of friendship.

“A friend brave enough to be truthful-very different from Holly’s “honesty”.”

The budding relationship between Sibylla and Ben is treated with refreshing candour. While Sib agonises over boyfriend/girlfriend etiquette and tries to reconcile lust with love, Ben maintains a casual attitude to the relationship which is realistic (and frighteningly familiar). I like that Wood chooses to recognise this common dynamic with equanimity and confronts desire and sex with candid honesty.

While Sibylla is experiencing a slew of firsts, Lou is mourning the memory of hers. Wood lays bare Lou’s grief, anger and fears in poignant diary entries as Lou tries to reconcile her loss with the ordinary task of living. Though she tries to hold herself apart from everyone, sheer proximity eventually forces Lou to engage with her fellow students. Her strongest connection is with Michael, Sib’s genius childhood friend, whose complete lack of artifice suits her, but she also becomes embroiled in the relationships between Sibylla, Holly, Michael and Ben despite herself. Unexpectedly, the muddled situation leads Lou to discover she can move forward with her life, without leaving Fred behind.

“You will always be a part of me, and how I see the world.”

Wildlife is wonderful and easily one of the best contemporary young adult novels I have read. It’s authentic, honest and teens will be able to relate to the characters and their circumstances.

Available to Purchase

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Wildlife by Fiona Wood

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9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kathryn White (@KathrynsInbox)
    May 28, 2013 @ 21:50:06

    Sounds like an interesting read. I’ve become a bit cynical about YA recently, but it seems like this one is really well written.

    Like

    Reply

  2. Danielle
    May 29, 2013 @ 12:53:24

    Love this review – good job describing a magnificent book🙂

    Like

    Reply

  3. Book Blather
    May 30, 2013 @ 19:41:32

    I never read Six Impossible Things but your review of this companion/sequel makes me think I should.🙂 What a lovely review!

    Like

    Reply

  4. Teddyree
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 14:28:12

    I haven’t read Six, Impossible things but what a good excuse to buy it lol. Lovely review, I think I’d enjoy Wildlife and thanks for the giveaway opportunity!

    Like

    Reply

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