The Wilderness of Girls

Zando. Jun. 2024. 368p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781638931003.
Gr 9 Up–Franklin’s debut is a haunting tale where reality and fantasy intertwine in a way that will have readers questioning reality. Following the upheaval of her life due to her father’s arrest, 17-year-old Rhi finds herself living in Happy Valley, NY, under the care of an unfamiliar uncle. The story may feel a touch slow initially, but it quickly takes a fantastical turn when she encounters wolves guarding four feral girls deep within the forest. Rhi is instantly drawn to them and is determined to unravel the mystery of the girls’ origins. As the narrative unfolds, the girls, who claim to be princesses from another realm, become increasingly more desperate to sort truth from lies. Against the backdrop of mass media attention, Rhi and the girls travel a path to self-discovery, with poignant moments of introspection and raw revelations. This novel does not shy away from difficult topics. Mental health, sexual assault, and suicide are present with an emphasis on healing and empowerment. The overarching themes are of friendship, feminism, and the inner strength that these women share when they are together. The unforgettable characters and unique plot of this novel lingers in the mind long after the final page is turned. There is some limited diversity among the characters.
VERDICT A good purchase for libraries where Rory Power or Nina LaCour are popular.

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