Review of “Wildlife” by Fiona Wood

This is a story told by two adolescent girls both at the age of sixteen who are best friends. The two girls, Lou and Sib, met at a nine-week long wilderness experience where they were assigned to each other as bunkmates along with four other girls their age. Lou, whose full name is Louisa, had a boyfriend that recently died accidentally and she is trying to cope with his loss and try to understand what happened. Sib, or Sibylla, is struggling with her sexuality and is figuring out how to deal with these social pressures. Lou starts out as a very shy private person mostly because she is still grieving her boyfriend. Obviously, this environment is not a very good one that is conducive to privacy so she ends up making a connection with Michael who is Sib’s oldest friend. Sib likes to talk to Michael about her loyalty to her mean and nasty best friend Holly and her infatuation with the school’s golden boy, Ben Capaldi. Ben coming into her life creates a problem for Sib along the lines that she has never been apart of the “popular” students but Ben is. This group has an edge of cruelty that is really not a part of who Sib really is. But this really makes her think about who she really is. She has always been one who just “goes along” with things rather than standing up with what she believes because she really just tries to fit in. This is one thing that being with Ben will make her pay the price for, insensitivity. The next issue with being with Ben is sex. Sib has never had sex and like most teenage girls, it looms largely in her life and she is dead set to cross sex off of her “to-do list.” She mentions:

“…at sixteen, whether you have, or have not, had sex can sometimes feel like the Great Divide. It’s not like friends who used to be close are gone, it’s just that thieve migrated another country.”

Sibs mother is a doctor who actually runs a Sexually Transmitted infections Clinic so Sib is pretty aware of the risks and precautions involved with sex. She actually has a list of facts that her mother made her memorize which she runs through her head when she thinks about having sex. This then makes her think of how her mother would react to her having sex and it probably wouldn’t be good. 

Lou’s sufferings, however, are more of a tortured nature. She is still really missing Fred terribly, who is her deceased boyfriend, and is very worried that even looking at other guys would be cheating on him. She struggles with the idea that she cannot be happy if he is dead. In Wildlife she reasons:

“I love you by remembering you. If I don’t think of you every time there’s something important, then doesn’t that mean you are npc longer important to me? And how can I let that happen when you were so very much the important one to me?”

Lou thinks that Michael is a great person even though he is ignored and even rejected by most of the other kids. Michael though is kind of in love with Sib. We all know that Sib is obsessed with Ben of course though. But, Michael being the good guy he is tries to help Lou with her grieving problem as much as he can which causes Lou’s affection for Michael to grow. Lou is also very concerned about Sib because of the new crowd she has been hanging out with and she wants to save her from their influence that could have a detrimental impact on Sib’s life. Lou finally approaches Sib when a mean kid creates a crisis and she says;

“The only person you should be is yourself. You can’t control perception. All you can control is how you treat someone else.”

This is one of my personal favorite parts of the books because I really love this quote from Lou. 

Wildlife explores many aspects in the story but the two most important are sexuality and grief. The author takes us through the differences between how boys and girls think about sex. Also, Sib learns that sex is an important step and it is according to her own preferences rather than the social pressure of others. Overall the story is very moving and memorable for many people I think that this book did a very good job in presenting the pros and cons of premarital sex with intelligence, understanding, and without didacticism. It also does a great job portraying a teenager grieving a loved on and how they got through it. This book has won a number of ver well-deserved awards, including Book of the Year (Older Readers), Children’s Book Council of Australia. 

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