Author- Fiona Wood.
Publish date- June 2013.
Publisher- Pan Macmillan Australia.
Wildlife has been recommended for fans of John Green, and books that are recommended to "readers who like/love/enjoy" a certain book/author always make me a little scared, because if that is an author I really appreciate/love's work then I don't want to already be comparing this new book to that, because how can any book level up with one of your favourites in all the ways you might hope?
It's happened a few times and has never resulted in anything excellent, but I am incredibly pleased (and a little surprised- this is John Green after all, one of my all time favourite writers and also someone whom I admire greatly) to say that Wildlife, if it didn't quite meet the John Green level of excellent, was very enjoyable.
I'll quickly go over the main things I didn't like-
1. I'm not a fan of the cover- it suits the storyline well and I can only assume it's supposed to be Sibylla and Lou which would be fine except they never are mentioned as sitting down together like this, which seems like a small thing but it bugged me so much. Also they are surrounded by trees whilst camping, so that is also something I don't like. It just didn't click with me and if I saw it in a store I would most likely not be interested.
2. The synopsis- both online and on the back of the book. It is perfectly accurate in it'sway, but I just really do not like the way it is presented. It sounds a little like the character of Sibylla is going to be whiney and that the whole thing is "typical youth", of which neither are really true.
3. It being recommended to fans of John Green- I just wish books were recommended to people who enjoy specific things and not matched against someone else's writing style, particularly when that person has had major sucess. A peeve, I guess.
4. Holly- oh my! I know she was crucial to the storyline (Sibylla's best friend) but she was so horrible and it just sickened me to read about her. Never have I wanted to slap someone so hard as I did her- and Sibylla, too, for putting up with her so readily.
Now, the rest-
Sibylla is interesting; she's never been interested in joining, or noticed by, the popular group, but that all changes when she models for a billboard and becomes a magnet for all of the attention. Instead of embracing her choice to do the modelling for the excellent money and ignoring all the falsities that come with it, she finds herself with a boyfriend- the boy she's been in love with for years- and ends up gravitating towards all that she has never really desired.
She complains about the billboard, not liking the attention it brings her but neither rebuking that attention and she does damage to friendships blindly, but most of the time I felt that she was a quite nice character. She's written honestly and her thoughts, for the most part, and true and sweet and she is kind. But she can also be blind.
Lou is the other main character, part of a switching POV, and she I liked a lot more- she is written very differently, and I enjoyed that difference; she isn't interested in joining in or letting people know about her past, but when she does let someone in she showed a new side of her, and though she is a difficult character with a view on grief that has been seen before, she bought a fresh angle to the story. She has some beautiful dialouge and monolouge and also a lot of brilliant one-liners.
The storyline- is fairly simple and enjoyable; told clearly and with a appreciated lack of confusion. Unfortunately towards the end there were a few plot twists that I thought could have been incorporated differently instead of being almost thrown in- the twists themselves worked well, but the way they were introduced felt rushed and I didn't feel it made the plot flow very well.
The setting- of spending a term in the bushlands of Australia isn't one I thought too much about beforehand, but now am surprised I took to so well- there was a (for me, glorious) lack of australian slang, something that would have really put me off, and all the walking and talk of gross instant camp food and campfires and sleeping bags really made me desirous of a few days trekking through bushland, which, let me tell you, has never been something I've been overly keen on. It's also something I haven't done in years and I never imagined a book could make me want to take the activity up again. It's incredible and scary.
This novel is... sweet. It's got moments of stupidity between characters and mistakes are made and people are awful in it (really it's mostly Holly) and they are confusing and don't say what they mean all of the time, but it is... searching for a word I find heartfelt. It is surprising and honest and heartfelt.
I wouldn't recommend it to people who like John Green and I'm not going to say it's the best book I've ever read and that it's going to change the world (it seems hard to imagine that there will ever be such a book) but I would recommend it to people who want to read about, as the best part of the cover tells us, characters who loose themselves and find themselves. The new selves are undoubtably different and there isn't a lack of mistakes made, but for that it's... real.
Thank you to Pan Macmillan for this review copy!