The short: Wild Bird takes the Cheryl Strayed “lost and found in the wilderness” journey to a YA audience. Loved the desert setting and Wren’s journey of self-discovery. Read my full review of Wild Bird below!
by Wendelin Van Draanen
To be published on September 5, 2017 by Knopf
Thanks to the publisher for sending me an ARC to review.
Synopsis adapted from Goodreads: 3:47 a.m. That’s when they come for Wren Clemmens. This is what happens to kids who’ve gone so far off the rails, their parents don’t know what to do with them anymore. Eight weeks of survivalist camping in the desert. Eight weeks to turn your life around. Yeah, right. 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.
Review of Wild Bird:
Wren is only 14 but hanging out with kids who do drugs and shoplift. As the book opens, strangers drag her out of bed and take her to the airport to travel to a therapeutic wilderness program.
I’ve read and enjoyed “Lost and Found in the wilderness” stories before (Wild by Cheryl Strayed, Dear Cassie by Lisa Burstein, and to a lesser degree, This is How it Happened by Paula Stokes) but of course, each person’s history and journey plays out a little differently, which makes these types of stories interesting to read.
This book was beautifully written, with Wren’s narration paralleling her increasing self-discovery and openness.
Wren starts out closed and angry and blaming others. At first, her story is “woe is me; I’m a victim,” but as her insight grows, she admits more to the reader. The narration also artfully weaves in Wren’s backstory – as she gains better insight into her choices and relationships, we watch her have breakthroughs, such as realizing that her old “friends” maybe aren’t, and that the family she feels betrayed by might actually have her best interests in mind.
I really loved the desert setting – the book isn’t specific about the exact location but the book also does a wonderful job of showing the desert, first as the hellhole that Wren perceives it, and then as a place that challenges and ultimately restores her.
Wren’s age initially worried me a bit. I thought she might feel a little young as a YA protagonist, but actually came to decide that her age worked well for the story. While I was glad this book didn’t have a romantic sub-plot, I’d love to read a book about Wren’s next chapter.