Summary: Prue McKeel, an avid drawer and bird enthusiast, is out for a stroll with her baby brother when all of a sudden a flock (technically called a “murder”) of crows swoops down, snatches her brother, and flies away into the deep, dark woods. And so begins the mystical tale of Wildwood, a fairy-tale-esque book set in modern times. Prue has been raised on tales of the “Impassable Wilderness,” how men have gone wandering in it and never returned and the dangers that lurk inside. Even though she is well aware of the dangers, Prue wastes no time journeying into the wild, tailed by a lonely boy named Curtis. Once they enter the woods, they encounter a perilous world that neither of them could have expected, and suddenly find themselves separated and lost in the midst of a violent war. Without knowing it, they end up on opposite sides, being fed lies and used as tools as they try to find each other and Prue’s brother. For the two heroes, their task becomes more than just getting back home; they embark on a journey to bring the shattered woods back to peace and safety.
Recommendation: Another reminder that you should never judge a book by its cover. The illustrations (by Carson Ellis, who also worked on The Mysterious Benedict Society) might look childish, but the contents of this book can be dark and violent. There are several scenes which are fairly bloody and tense (but nothing too bad). I enjoyed Wildwood, but I think that a lot of fantasy books, including this one, can be unoriginal. The plots are often predictable, the characters very basic. They fit a typical mold – the villain turned evil by a tragic past, the lonely friend looking for an accepting home. I felt like some characters weren’t developed enough in this book. I can’t go too deep into this without spoiling something, but Prue’s parents didn’t seem like they cared, which leads me to another common theme: kids prevailing over adults. Although it’s nice for kids to know through books that they can make a difference, I don’t like it how so many Young Reader and Young Adult books insist that kids are the only ones who can make a difference. So many books portray parents and other adults as having unimaginative, limited minds. Another theme that doesn’t make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside is the whole “chosen one” idea. It worked for Harry Potter, but enough is enough. Too many books focus on a couple of people who are the only ones who have the power to save everyone else. More books need to focus on everyone making a difference, not just someone with a special “gift.” I hope a good writer or publisher gets his or her eyes on this, because a lot of readers are looking for some variety! Are you with me?
Favorite Passage: “A warthog in a three-piece green corduroy suit was holding court from the middle landing of the staircase… a pair of black-tailed deer, the ties on their Oxford suits matching their tails, argued vehemently by the marble bust of an important-looking man…”