Hastings District Libraries

Monday, 15 January 2018

Wild Bird by Wendelin Van Draanen

“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 anymore. This is wilderness therapy camp." - Publisher's blurb

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.”

Wren’s home life is pretty stable. She has two parents who want the best for her (even if they have trouble showing that most of the time), an older sister (that tries her best to ignore her, the way older siblings have been known to), and a younger brother (that Wren absolutely adores). You would think that Wren would be relatively well-balanced and grateful for her lot in life. But she’s not. And it frustrates me to no end.

Smoking (both cigarettes and weed) from a young age, drinking, shoplifting – Wren is lost, and heading down a dangerous road. Tired and out of options, her parents sign her up for a brutal, tough-love survival camp to get her to sober up and put her life back on track. But can Wren survive the harsh desert? And more importantly, can she survive being left alone with her thoughts? Wren is forced to take long hikes, learn how to make fires without matches, help dig latrines, and (gasp) live without her cell phone. And she does it all very reluctantly. Kicking and screaming and swearing the whole way.

I found it hard to like Wren at first. She is vindictive, selfish and predictable – a perfect stereotype of a white middle class rebellious teen. Thankfully though it is not because of bad writing, but as a place for her character to grow from. Over the course of her eight weeks at camp she learns a lot. Not just wilderness skills, but about herself. Her insecurities and regrets, her strengths and weaknesses. The girl who leaves camp is definitely not the one who was blindfolded and dragged there at a horrible hour of the morning, still recovering from the night before. Through beautiful and insightful writing Wendelin Van Draanen introduces us to a trainwreck, and shows us how she pulls her life back together.

Posted by Sas

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