Wildlife – book review

Wildlife by Fiona Wood

Wildlife is the spectacular book about finding out who you are and learning to be yourself completely, written by Fiona Wood.

Sibylla expects the horrible outdoor education program when she is boarding for a term in the wilderness – but complicated friendships and love that goes wrong? They’re obviously extra-curricula.

Lou is the reluctant new girl for this term in the great outdoors. But the real her is hidden behind a fragile mask, she is grieving about a death of a loved one that occurred almost a year ago. Despite this, Lou becomes interested and intrigued by the drama that’s unfolding between her housemates Sibylla and Holly. Lou has to decide whether she will keep hiding, or make the most of her opportunity and try and move forward.

When Sibylla confronts a bitter betrayal, she needs to rethink everything she thought she knew about surviving in the wild.

I really enjoyed reading Wildlife and it was so much better than I thought it would be. I haven’t read any other books by Fiona Wood, but I love the way she writes. The imagery was beautiful and the sentences she weaved were full of emotion. Even the dialogue was perfect and enjoyable to read. I could clearly hear the voices of each character in my head and I felt connected to all of them. One thing I didn’t know that this book would be told from two points of view – Lou’s and Sibylla’s – and it was a very pleasant surprise. The way these chapters were written made it so easy to see which character’s point of view you were reading from. Lou’s chapters were written in a journal entry or informal letter style, which meant the events were told from the past tense and included a lot of Lou’s thoughts, which were fascinating to read. Sibylla’s chapters were written in present tense. I felt as though the two different points of view really worked well for this novel. Another thing I loved about this book was the setting. Almost the entire story is set on a school camp, which I thought was really smart. I know that in a lot of books, the author wants to move the parents to the side so the characters, usually teenagers, can be self-dependant and mature. Having the majority of this book set at a camp was a brilliant idea because it allowed the characters to be self-dependent and it was realistic. I’m pretty sure almost every teenager has been on a school camp, and so everyone could relate to it. Here we have a whole term of the camp experience, which I really enjoyed reading about. And on top of that, it’s set in the Victorian bush, so that’s something I know a lot about because of my past school camp experiences.
I absolutely loved the characters in this book. As I spoke about alternating chapters, it was so easy to distinguish between the two, as both of these characters were so different. Lou is struggling to cope with the loss of a loved one and her chapters seemed dark in comparison to Sibylla’s. However, I found that Lou’s intense grief and loneliness are perfectly balanced with Sibylla’s light and fun story. Although Sibylla deals with some problems of her own, Lou’s seem much more serious. Sibylla has to deal with the pressure her hot new boyfriend is placing on her, her best friend is acting strange, and her oldest friend is weirder than ever. It seems that these two alternating points of view would be too stark, but they complement each other perfectly and because they both characters feel a similar sense of isolation. I loved spending time with both characters and getting to know them. Sibylla and Lou, as well as all of the minor characters, had their own personality and seemed beautifully real in every way.
Sibylla was a really fun character to read about. She was witty and funny, and would stand up for her true friends. The only thing I didn’t like about her was her name. How do you even pronounce that? Sib-lala? Sib-e-la? Sib-u-la? I was confused about that for the whole book and it would have been a whole lot easier if she was called something else. Whenever I came across her name, I simply called her ‘Sib’, because I couldn’t work out how to say the rest. Despite the slight name-pronouncing problem I had, I loved Sibylla as a character and enjoyed reading the chapters from her point of view.
I really connected with Lou and felt empathetic toward her. But my heart broke for her. I loved learning about the loss of her loved one, but at the same time, it shattered my heart. I came to understand why she acts the way she does and I was so pleased when she befriended Michael, another character I loved. Michael made me smile and I really connected with him. All the secondary characters are well developed and they all had their own personality and differences.
I love the plot and the issues this book discusses. This book is ultimately about being yourself and not feeling the need to hide behind a façade. The characters in this story are all beautifully created and I loved spending time with them and felt lucky to have met them all. This book is not only realistic, but is touching and inspiring. Although some of the issues this book deals with are deep, overall this is a fun and easy read and I definitely recommend it. I’d give Wildlife by Fiona Wood a score of 8.5 out of 10.

A huge thank you to Luke from Thesaurus Booksellers Brighton for generously giving me with this book!