Thursday, September 29, 2016

Wolf Hollow - Lauren Wolk

Title: Wolf Hollow
Author: Lauren Wolk
Publisher: Dutton Children's Books (Penguin), 2016
Length: 291 pages
Genre: Children's Historical Fiction
Started: September 25, 2016
Finished: September 28, 2016

From the inside cover:

Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby's strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. Soon, she will need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.

Brilliantly crafted, Wolf Hollow is a haunting tale of America at a crossroads and a time when one girl's resilience and strength help to illuminate the darkest corners of our history.

This book has received quite the hype, even likening it to To Kill a Mockingbird, and it is completely

Annabelle lives with her parents, brothers, and members of her extended family on a farm in a rural town in 1943. When their neighbours' granddaughter arrives from the city to live with them, everything begins to change. Betty targets Annabelle right from the beginning, demainding money and valuables from her and threatening her younger brothers if she doesn't comply. When Toby, the reclusive veteran who has always been kind to Annabelle, witnesses Betty hitting her, he then becomes a target. This fuels the town's existing wariness and thinly veiled hostility towards Toby when he is blamed for a horrible incident perpetrated by Betty. When Betty injures her youngest brother, Annabelle finally goes to her parents, which only leads to more blame directed at Toby. When both Betty and Toby suddenly disappear, even those sympathetic towards Toby like Annabelle's parents begin to suspect him. Annabelle knows that Toby is innocent and begins to take things into her own hands to clear his name.

First off, the story has this incredible prologue that sends shivers down your spine (the majority of which is the text you see on the front cover). I can see the first line as the type to be included in those lists of famous opening lines of books that cultured people love to quote.

The story really does read like a children's version of Mockingbird, just minus the racial issues. Annabelle is an older Scout, Toby is our Boo Radley, Betty is our Bob/Mayella Ewell mashup, Annabelle's parents both serve as Atticus (yay for showing both parents as equally involved even in 1943), and the townspeople resemble Maycomb's. There's a clear disgust towards the unjust accusations and mob mentality employed by the others towards Toby, and the animal imagery of the wolves replaces the mockingbirds with similar symbolism. While Annabelle has more agency than her Mockingbird counterpart, and does affect change, there isn't a happy ending with unicorns and rainbows, she does come the the realization that life sucks and is unfair sometimes, but still learns that one person can make a difference.

I liked how cruel the author made Betty, some might say it's a bit unrealistic but then I'd say those people never taught children. Betty is a psychotic, sadistic, fourteen-year-old; and while rare they aren't non-existent. The friendship between Annabelle and Toby is well-crafted, it's believable without coming off as creepy or inappropriate. Annabelle is narrating the book as an adult looking back on her youth, so while the character is eleven turning twelve, the voice is much older and sophisticated. The maturity in the voice is believable, but I'm not sure if children reading this book would really grasp the intricacies of the book itself; a teenager would, and a mature twelve year old might, but any younger and it might just go right over their heads.

Every classroom needs this book, this needs to be required reading for older children/teens, not just for how beautiful the writing is, but because of the themes and the messages delivered to readers.

Thoughts on the cover:
Beautiful. It's hard to tell from the picture, but the text and the trees surrounding the silhouette of Annabelle is embossed and shines a nice copper colour.

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