Sunday, June 2, 2013

Wildlife by Fiona Wood

Life? It’s simple: be true to yourself.
The tricky part is finding out exactly who you are…

In the holidays before the dreaded term at Crowthorne Grammar’s outdoor education camp two things out of the ordinary happened.
A picture of me was plastered all over a twenty-metre billboard.
And I kissed Ben Capaldi.

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.

A story about first love, friendship and NOT fitting in.

I have been anticipating this book for a long time (Six Impossible Things being one of my favourite books) but I did not anticipate how much this book would resound with me.I felt like Wood was peeking inside my soul, capturing feelings and thoughts, taking me right back to my teenage self . Taken those haphazard and chaotic feelings and brought them to life in such a poignant, heartfelt and smiley, achey way.

There is so much to love about Wildlife. I love the way Fiona Wood writes. She has taken her time with this. Words are carefully chosen, plots are weaved together, sentiments are nailed, dialogue is funny and sharp and pitch perfect.

I didn't realise Wildlife would incorporate two POVs. And I loved that about it. Lou's POV is shared through her diary entries, Sibylla's in present tense prose. I also loved the whole set-up. School camps were the best, and here we have a whole term school camp experience = winner for me.

A bit about Lou
I ached for Lou the most, wished she did not have to endure through the grief, and at the same time, I loved how she endured. She became so fierce and true to herself. Even in her grief, she is sharp and so likeable: After Fred died I divided my time between blind disbelief, blank chaos and therapy. (p7 Lou). Also, she brings to the book one of the best 'I love you' moments EVER. It nearly broke me, the swoon and all that was and all that was lost.

And Michael, how I loved him
Speaking of favourite characters, I loved Michael so much.

If I ever see Michael with a dreamyvague smile on his face and ask him what he's thinking about the answer is likely to be, prime numbers. (p 42 Sib on Michael) Michael really spoke to me. He was unique, just doing his own thing which was not like the crowd at all and teen years can be so hard for boys like him, but Wood really elevated him and he is such a stand-out and a new favourite literary character for me. I so like him, and I think he will resonate with many readers.

'Lou seems to have in common with Michael that thing of not caring at all about other people's approval. (p245 Sib) I wanted to go into the pages of this book and hang out with them, I wanted to go back to my teenage self and let Lou and Michael rub off on me and make me a better version of myself. 'The only person you should be is yourself. You can't control perception. All you can control is how you treat someone else.' (p 308. Lou to Sib. I love her.)

And, also, Sibylla...
I loved Sib as well, her narration and heartache was charming and honest and she is so beautifully captured. What am I even doing here? Me, an inner city girl. Ninety per cent of my life happens on one highly resourced page of the street directory. (p92 sib LOL)

I'm too tired and too sad to write home just yet.I miss them, even Charlotte. Who'd thunk? I don't think I fully appreciated how relaxing it is having someone I can be really mean to. It's going to be so hard being nice all the time. (p 51 sib -- I know that feeling :))

I am really sick of the people who need to tell me I'm unattrative. Somehow they feel duty-bound to put me down because I've been in that stupid advertisement. Surely my neon self-esteem/appearance sign is still visibly flickering on 'below average'. Nothing has changed here. (p289 Sib. Capturing how we have all felt, despite her confidence and shining personality).

Here I could mention all the themes and goodness and beauty of this book, there is so much depth and richness to explore. However, in thinking about my review, I really want to say, despite the ache and grief and exploring sex and friendship and classic coming of age stuff, just how much FUN the whole book is

Favourite things about Wildlife that I loved:
ghosts (Maisy and the charcoal man),
'we intend to deliver the joy of grammar to wanderers in the alpine region.' p212 apostrophes of possession graffiti. That whole scene = love so much
sex and STDs and Lou's mum -- many LOLs
Looking for Alibrandi shout-out <3
snippets of awesome hanging out teen dialogue: What flavour would you say blue snakes are?' He asked (p 238 michael to Lou)

Also, finding out more about Dan and the gang from Six Impossible Things:
I look forward to sitting with him when he gets back and I am released. We will sit and not have to talk. Or we may talk. If we do, it won't be to reassure someone who doesn't feel as bad as we feel that everything is okay. (p147 Lou, thinking about Dan)

While I was reading Wildlife I loved it. I loved  the fresh and funny feel. Loved watching the character's interact. Loved the little anecdotes weaved into the narrative. After I finished Wildlife, I loved it even more. Once I saw the big picture I was in awe of how Wood did all that. How she crafted a story that was so much more than a linear storyline. Full of deep running themes (see Reynje's review for more theme discussion).

Wildlife is a beautifully written story that will stand the test of time and multiple rereads. A book for every teenager, and everyone who once was a teenager. A new absolute favourite for me.

I marked some of my favourite passages

Wildlife @ goodreads

Thanks to Pan Macmillan for my review copy :)


  1. What a great review. I love when a book makes me ache for a character.

  2. I always love your recs, Nomes-- this sounds like a winner indeed. :0) On the Aussie lit front I just ordered FInnikin of the Rock and the Ghosts of Asbury High. Can't wait to dive in. :0) Hope you are well.

  3. This is such a great review, Nomes! I read WIldlife myself recently and enjoyed it a lot more than I expected; the grammar-graffiti scenes were so great!

  4. Gorgeous review, Nomes. I loved Michael too.. I really hope he makes an appearance in Fiona Wood's next book :)


Thanks for the commenty love :)