Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Wild Girls - Pat Murphy

Summary: "I met the queen of the foxes in 1972, when my family moved from Connecticut to California..."

Twelve-year-old Joan is sure that she is going to be miserable in her new home. Then she meets a kindred spirit: Sarah, who prefers to be called "Fox" and who lives with her writer father in a rundown house in the middle of the woods.

Joan and Sarah--Newt and Fox--spend all their spare time outside, talking and fooling around, and soon start writing stories together. When they win first place in a student fiction contest, they're recruited for a prestigious summer writing class taught by a free spirit named Verla Volante.

This is a book about friendship, the power of story, and how coming of age means finding your own answers--rather than simply taking adults on faith. (Summary from back of the book and image from Biblio.com)

My Review: I shouldn't have gone into this book with any preconceptions, but alas, I did...again. The title made me think (as I rarely read the back of books for fear it won't lure me in) it was more upper level YA literature. It's not. It's definitely more middle school appropriate and I'd say if you had a voracious 5th grader, this book would also be appropriate for her.

That said, it has many good messages for girls of any age, as well as gives perspective on one of life's big trials for kids about this age: divorce. I'd definitely recommend it for my students. Fear is addressed on many levels: public speaking, having your writing read by others, watching your parents fight, seeing your siblings get in serious trouble, worrying that your stable life will come crashing down. It gives a feeling of freedom and courage to deal with problems many teens and tweens deal with across the nation.

As a middle school teacher I also love the writing influence. Learning to write is, in a way, learning to put yourself in someone elses shoes. Considering the teenage experience typically is to see things only from a personal standpoint, this book prods the reader to look outside herself at how others might be seeing things or feeling. It's valuable on many levels--encouraging writing and encouraging empathy.

It wasn't the best book I've read at the YA level, but it was definitely good. I can't say that it was a page turner, but I did want to keep reading and did want to finish. I think my rating is accurate.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Sum it up: A story of growth through writing and adolescence.

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