Monday, September 4, 2017

ARC Review: Wild Bird by Wendelin Van Draanen

Title: Wild Bird 
Author: Wendelin Van Draanen
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers 
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
Format: Paperback ARC 

Page Count: 311


3:47 a.m. That's when they come for Wren Clemens. She's hustled out of her house and into a waiting car, then a plane, and then taken on a forced march into the desert. This is what happens to kids who've gone so far off the rails, their parents don't know what to do with them any more. This is wilderness therapy camp.

The Wren who arrives in the Utah desert is angry and bitter, and blaming everyone but herself. But angry can't put up a tent. And bitter won't start a fire. Wren's going to have to admit she needs help if she's going to survive.

In her most incisive and insightful book yet, beloved author Wendelin Van Draanen's offers a remarkable portrait of a girl who too a wrong turn and got lost--but who may be able to find her way back again in the vast, harsh desert. (taken from

“Out here Mother Nature is my judge and jury, and no amount of objecting or redirecting or even being out of order will get me out of this. The only way to survive my sentence is to serve it.” 

I truly, truly enjoyed this novel. Having been through extremely tough experiences with people who are very similar to Wren and her fellow "inmates," Wild Bird touched me in a much deeper way that I expected it to. Van Draanen crafts a story that delves deeply into what makes us hurt and angry, as well as what helps us survive those emotions. 

Kudos to the author for actually creating a believable fourteen-year-old character. Seriously, how many YA novels do we read that have teenagers who more closely resemble hardened, mature thirty-year-olds than young people? I consistently find myself rolling my eyes at characters we are supposed to believe are authentic representations of teenagers. Wild Bird, however, is full of young people that actually seem young. They are scared, selfish, and extremely immature. And guess what? I loved it. Van Draanen's story is so raw and realistic, and I appreciated every bit of her characters' development. 

I think Van Draanen tackled a very tricky subject in a very adept manner. Writing about young girls, depression, drug abuse, and psychological dysfunction isn't easy. Too often, novels like this one come across as whiny or over-the-top. Wren isn't a devil, but she isn't a good person, either. I so so so appreciated that Van Draanen made it very clear that Wren isn't the victim here, but she is struggling and in pain. That's such a hard concept to portray, and I think she does it very well. 

The whole nature aspect of the story really appealed to me. Sure, I've read novels about survival in the wild many times, but there was something different about this one. Wren's experience in the desert is both psychological and physical, and I liked seeing those two components play off of each other. I'm actually traveling to Utah quite soon, so the descriptions of the desert landscape also fascinated me. 

Overall, I'd highly recommend Wild Bird to anyone in search of some quality realistic YA fiction. In fact, I'd recommend it to most teens, especially those who feel lost and alone. Not only is it informative and emotional, but it's also just downright entertaining at points. Two thumbs up! 

I firmly believe in the restorative qualities of nature and spending time in the outdoors. Wild Bird does an exemplary job of embodying that theme while tackling several others that are pertinent to many teenagers (and even some adults).