Release Date: September 16, 2014 (orig. June 1, 2013)
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Keywords: exploration, wilderness, camp
Format Read: eARC via NetGalley
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My first complaint is going to be WHAT SCHOOL HAS THESE PROGRAMS AND WHY DIDN'T I GO THERE? Okay, now that that's out of the way, I'm going to talk about how refreshing and interesting this book was to read.
The cast of characters was excellent. Getting to know the entire class out in the wilderness semester seemed a little intimidating at first, but Wood introduced them slowly and in a way that wasn't overwhelming at all. I feel like I was in the middle of all the students interacting, and I couldn't wait to see what Annie would be afraid of next or what Shakespeare project Michael would get really into. And those people are only minor characters. Each had their own distinct personality that made them feel like real people. There were sweethearts, and there were jerks.
Let's talk about Ben Capaldi. While reading the beginning, I wanted to like him more. I mean, it's like Wood sets it up from the beginning that everything is inevitably going to go wrong, and I kind of hated that. I wanted to be surprised by certain characters' choices, but Ben Capaldi had me hating his guts from page 1. Every interaction he had with Sib left me feeling anxious and eager to see what would happen next. I was missing the swoonworthiness that I wanted in a wilderness semester book. But he wasn't even my most hated character.
Man, did Wood create an awesome character I loved to hate. Holly was well-written, dynamic, and I never really knew what she was going to do next. Though, I was pretty sure I wasn't going to like it. I questioned a lot of Sib's choices around her, but totally understood them if that makes any sense. By the end, when Sib is having a lot of her revelation thoughts and life-changing realization from the semester, it managed to transport me to my very own study abroad semester. I was in England, learning a lot about the people I had been friends with, and realized they were not very nice people. So while Sib seemed to make stupid decisions, looking back, they were very real ones that I, along with I'm sure, lots of other people, have made throughout their lives.
There was really only one thing that bugged me (other than the fact that my high school didn't have a wilderness semester option). It was told in a dual-POV, which I had no clue until I read that in a synopsis online, at which point I was about 15% of the way through the book. So I had to click the button all the way back to the beginning. Lou and Sib's voices are not distinct from one another, and while I really enjoyed Wood's style, I wanted to see more variation between the two girls. Once I got the hang of figuring out the journal entries, it was fine. But it did take me a while.
Wildlife was a very real, honest, and a bit of an emotional read for me. I think because I had a lot of similar experiences I was more invested in wanting Sib to work out her problems. I was very pleased with the end result of the book, and I'm really enjoying this new cover for America's book.