Reviews provided by Syndetics
Publishers Weekly Review
Starred Review. In her first novel published in the U.S., Australian writer Wood eloquently traces the emotional growth of two girls during their high school's required nine-week term of outdoor education. With a new look and new fame due to a recent professional modeling gig, 16-year-old Sib has just had her first kiss, with handsome athlete Ben Capaldio. Meanwhile, new student Lou is bereft after the death of her boyfriend, but she vows to hide her grief while reluctantly preparing to leave home for camp. The two girls are strangers when they become cabinmates, but Lou is drawn into Sib's personal dramas and complicated relationships with three peers: Ben, her new boyfriend; Michael, her oldest friend; and Holly, her manipulative best friend, who has a cruel streak. Sib's and Lou's alternating narratives intimately express their respective losses of innocence and their tenuous attempts to chart new territories in rugged, unfamiliar surroundings. Their voices reverberate with honesty, vulnerability, and deep emotions and will leave a lasting impression on readers. Ages 15--up. Agent: Cheryl Pientka, Jill Grinberg Literary Management. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal Review
Gr 9 Up-This story takes place in the mountains outside Melbourne, Australia. Sib's class is spending a quarter of their 10th grade year at Mount Fairweather, an "outdoor education campus" of their private school. The students go on solo hiking overnight trips, have to follow chore charts, and learn to adapt to shared living spaces. Holly, Sib's best friend and a drama queen, has dominated their relationship since childhood. Sib is likable but not popular, naive but not clueless, smart but not a show-off: Why does she cling to someone this mean and insecure? When Ben Capaldi, a catch, moves in on unsuspecting Sib, she's all aflutter at first. But as she befriends Lou, a defiant newcomer, she realizes that her self-worth is all tied up in what others see and expect of her. Lou, privately battling grief and loss, isn't an easy person to know or to take advantage of; she'd rather be alone. Still, she's self-possessed; when she chooses to speak, it's through a performance ofÅ the Beatles's "Blackbird" that earns her the audience's hushed silence. Before Fairweather, Lou had another life. Memories of her first times with Fred suggests that puppy love can be the real thing; in fact, Lou and Sib relate losing their virginity with such refreshing candor that Wildlife validates the sexual needs of girls everywhere. The believable characters will win over fans of E. Lockhart's The Disreputable History of Frankie Landua-Banks (Hyperion, 2008).-Georgia Christgau, Middle College High School, Long Island City, NY (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
*Starred Review* In a clever, light spin on Othello, Wood plunks pale, not-quite-pretty 16-year-old Sibylla and her scheming, firecracker frenemey, Holly, in the wilderness for an outdoors-heavy semester at their private school in Australia. In between classes and two-day hikes, Holly capitalizes on (and sometimes wholly orchestrates) Sib's growing popularity and nudges her into dating Ben, who's hot and smart but not quite right for Sib. Meanwhile, Lou, dealing with heartrending grief after the untimely death of her boyfriend, observes from a distance as Holly deviously manipulates Sib's social life. In alternating points of view Lou's lyrical journal entries and Sib's first-person narrative Wood builds a believable story of misguided friendship, betrayal, and empowering growth. Sib reluctantly compromises some of her ideals, thanks to Holly's wheedling, but she admirably reclaims the capacity to stand up for herself. Heartbroken Lou initially shuts out everyone, but she slowly lets down her walls and discovers a reservoir of inner strength. Refreshingly, Wood depicts only positive, validating sexual experiences for both Sib and Lou, in which they each have full agency over their bodies and their choices with their partners. With exceptional candor, honesty, and nuance, Wood tells a heartening and compelling story of the importance of self-confidence and true friendship.--Hunter, Sarah Copyright 2014 Booklist
Horn Book Review
Sibylla is dreading the nine-week-long outdoor education program run by her private high school. So is Lou, who, after a year in therapy, is transferring to the same school, where no one will know her, which is just fine by her. The two girls' alternating narratives initially highlight their differences: Sib is navigating her first relationship, with popular boy Ben, while Lou is mourning her first relationship, with soulmate Fred, who was killed in an accident nearly a year ago. Sib is curious about the new girl, whose "expression ranges from generalized boredom to specific boredom." And Lou wants to know why Sib puts up with seriously mean best friend Holly (who receives a first-rate comeuppance at the end, courtesy of clever Lou). The two are drawn together when Sib's geeky friend Michael (who has secretly loved Sib since kindergarten) befriends Lou, who is slowly starting to join the world again. The mounting interpersonal tension will keep readers deeply engrossed, as will the narrators' honesty and humor (Sib compares being a virgin to "sitting at the little kids' table on Christmas Day, while other girls my age are over there sipping from champagne flutes and using the good cutlery"; Lou describes the ride to camp: "Sat with quiet girl called don't remember don't care. Drove past a vast lake in which trees were drowning, not waving"). This exceptional novel is Australian author Wood's American debut, but readers will want to get their hands on her first book, Six Impossible Things, in which Lou and Fred fell in love. jennifer m. brabander (c) Copyright 2014. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Book Review
In alternating narratives, two high school sophomores chronicle their private school's nine-week wilderness experience: Introspective Sib gets a taste of dating a popular boy, and grief-stricken Lou begins to recover from her boyfriend's death. The semester begins just as a modeling gig brings Sib to the attention of the school's most popular guy, Ben, leading to a lot of make-out sessions but little conversation. Dazzled and a bit puzzled by Ben's attention, Sib is woefully unprepared to navigate the popular crowd's dating rituals. Her missteps are used by her "best" friend, Holly, to raise her own meager social ranking, making her a consistent though predictable villain. Holly's machinations are almost unfailingly met with Sib's quick forgiveness, sapping their storyline of much of its potential punch. More engaging, however, is Lou's grief and recovery, which is largely detailed through the tone of her observations of the social dramas unfolding around her, transforming from dismissive to engaged. Lou's friendship with Sib's friend Michael, an intellectual pining with unrequited love for Sib, injects the novel with believable sincerity and poignancy. Lou's story also provides hints of interesting back story for secondary characters, especially her friends spending their own semester abroad. These moments when Wood allows her characters to deviate from what's expected of them mark her as a writer to continue to watch.A pleasant, promising, slightly uneven American debut. (Fiction. 14-18) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.