Today I have a bit of a treat – an AudioBook review with a short excerpt from the title – giving you a sense of Fiona Wood’s lovely conversational style of writing, that brings you right into the story with the characters as they relate to you as friends….
If you read lots of teen / YA titles, you soon find yourself in a story that feels familiar: characters are so similar as to be clones, their romantic aspirations seem to rise no higher than a triangle, there are parental miscommunications, difficulties in school, and a large and overbearing sense of ‘persona’ being much more important than the person, at least superficially. This is where the Australian YA market has brought a change for the better to readers and fans of teen/YA titles everywhere. Each title that I have read from an Australian author has been pointedly different and special, with a unique perspective and solid voicing that often gets missed in the most popular titles out there.
Fiona Wood brings us Wildlife, a story based on two year 10’s (that would be high school sophomores to those unfamiliar) and their navigation of a school term in a Mountain Wildlife camp – away from all familiar and comfortable ‘civilized’ amenities.
Sibylla is the first voice we meet, and she is instantly engaging and easy to relate to. During break she had a ‘moment’ with Ben, the most popular boy in Year 10, and their kiss was recorded for posterity on a billboard. Now, what was a private and rather interesting side-note in her life is a public event: forcing her to reevaluate her position at school, in life, and really reestablish her own sense of self.
“So the Earth must be spinning of it’s axis by now, plummeting headlong towards a new universe, oceans sloshing and spilling, icecaps sliding, trees uprooted. Because somehow I’ve stepped over the line to stand with the popular girls. Only I haven’t. The line must have moved without me realising.”
The second voice is that of Lou (who was introduced in Six Impossible Things) as the new girl in school, who is, by choice, desperately trying to isolate herself.
“Now all I have to do is blend in, zone out and start crossing off the days on my cell wall”.
Lou is utterly isolated within walls of her own making: combining anger, grief, loss and utter frustration from a terrible loss that has shaken her to her core. She isn’t at all interested in the goings-on with her classmates or their social concerns, let alone the tentative and not so tentative dalliances with romance.
These two perspectives are alternated as the girls first are embroiled within their own concerns, and gently spread out to encompass mentions and questions about one another as they start to form a friendship that is at first based only on proximity. Wood writes in a very conversational style, that brings emotion and understanding of the two characters with her beautiful phrasing and solid delineation of the two characters. Surprisingly, the voices of Sib and Lou are so distinct and unique that their personalities are clearly presented, and there is no difficulty in determining who is presenting a scene or perspective.
With the added skillful setting of the world around them, Wood presents the story with vivid imagery and insets of family life, interactions and simple daily activities and gripes that will feel familiar to everyone.
Narration in this story is provided by Candice Moll and Fiona Hardingham. Both narrators have lovely accents, one just slightly different from the other, and both wholly Australian, that will also clue readers/listeners in to the fact that accents in Australia are not all “Crocodile Dundee” and “Steve Irwin”. Both narrators give appropriate pauses, emotional emphasis and tone with deliveries that delineate the characters with ease, as well as presenting a sense of interior voices contrasting with conversations or retelling to others. Neither over-reach for emphasis or to make a point, the emotion and impact is evident in the words written on the page so handily by the author.
Perfect for readers / listeners from age 12 and up, this story is incredibly well-written with plenty of moments to remember, showing teenagers as the wholly complex and complicated beings that they are, without delving into loads of stereotypical or generalized behaviors. Fiona Wood is sure to become a favorite of many readers.
Stars: Overall 5 Narration 4 Story 5
Author: Fiona Wood
Genre: Teen Reads
Narrator: Candice Moll, Fiona Hardingham
Published by: Hachette Audio, Hachette Book Group
Source: Hachette Audio
Audio Length: 8 Hours: 8 minutes
Heat: Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ AllRomance ♦ iTunes ♦ Downpour ♦Audible
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.
A copy of this title was provided via Hachette Audio for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.