Wildlife by Fiona Wood

Monday, May 27, 2013

Wildlife is lovely, lovely and a bit more grown-up than Six Impossible Things. I suppose it is a sequel, or a companion novel, and I daresay I like Wildlife even better.

I have been in Melbourne for almost two weeks and I only brought the one book with me (I have been very busy sitting on trains and trams and thinking about things, so one book was enough) and it is not an especially long novel so I have been rather dragging out the process of reading it. You know how difficult trying to spend two weeks reading such a splendid novel? Very difficult. I wanted to read it all at once, but in an amazing example of self-control I took my time. It is a beautifully written novel, worth the three-year wait since Six Impossible Things.

Oh, here's the blurb:
Boarding for a term in the wilderness, sixteen-year-old Sibylla expects the gruesome outdoor education program – but friendship complications, and love that goes wrong? They’re extra-curricula.

Enter Lou from Six Impossible Things – the reluctant new girl for this term in the great outdoors. Fragile behind an implacable mask, she is grieving a death that occurred almost a year ago. Despite herself, Lou becomes intrigued by the unfolding drama between her housemates Sibylla and Holly, and has to decide whether to end her self-imposed detachment and join the fray.

And as Sibylla confronts a tangle of betrayal, she needs to renegotiate everything she thought she knew about surviving in the wild.

It is really wonderfully, beautifully written and heartfelt, and my favourite character (and the one I related to most) was probably Michael. It's only shortfalls in my eyes would be the occasional sense of a little too much learning lessons/growing up/figuring out (I have this issue with lots of coming-of-age novels though - nothing ever feels big or significant or life-changing as you experience it, 'personal growth' tends to only be noticed in retrospect in real life) and the obviousness of the toxicity of Holly's relationship with Sibylla (though, really, that's fairly realistic). I found the relationships between the characters to be very authentically teenaged (I love Sibylla and her over-thinking and her self-conscious teenagedness. Teenageryness? Teenness? Those aren't words, but I hope you understand what I mean). Lou's grief was very, very well written (Lou is my other favourite. I was sad that Fred and Estelle and co were 'off-page', but I did love that they were mentioned, even though they were away in France).

Here's a rather lengthy excerpt from the publisher's website, and here it is on Goodreads. This review would be longer but I am on a computer at a library and they only give you sixty minutes and I've spent rather a lot of time thinking and staring out the window while sitting here. I have also just noticed what a noisy typist I am. Anyway! In conclusion - Wildlife, lovely, beautiful contemporary Australian YA. File under 'books I wish I had written'.
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