Happy Monday, guys!
We're kicking off the week with Wolf Hollow, a gorgeous novel about a young girl who begins to learn about both the cruelties and the genuine goodness in the world.
MMGM is a feature hosted by the fabulous Shannon Messenger on her blog every week!!
Expected publication: May 3rd 2016 by Dutton Books for Young Readers
Format read: ARC via publisher
This is a book that asks plenty of thoughtful, challenging questions on communal judgements and societal assumptions. It's a classic in the making, and should be a must-read for every reader.
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 new student 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, spinning out of control—until she mysteriously disappears.
As the community searches for Betty and days pass, fingers begin to point toward Toby, a World War I veteran who carries deep and secret scars. But while others see his strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon 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.
Author Lauren Wolk introduces us to Annabelle, a girl who lives a pleasant but unremarkable life in a small Pennsylvania town. However, when Betty moves to town, Annabelle begins experiencing cruel bullying at the hands of the new girl.
As things begin to escalate, Annabelle is forced to not only stand up to a young girl's cruelty, but also to a community's desire to find a scapegoat...
I generally try not to compare classics to contemporary stories, because I feel that it places a lot of expectation and stress on both authors in question. However, I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that Wolf Hollow definitely felt like a modern-day answer to Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. Annabelle has the same quiet conviction as Mockingbird's Scout, as she's forced to deal with a situation that she never expected: a bully who is attacking her and her family without any logic or reason.
Though Wolk smartly sprinkles in some hints at Betty's motivation, the very fact that Annabelle doesn't fully understand just why Betty is so cruel, makes Betty's every subsequent action all the more frustrating and terrifying. Readers will undoubtedly feel sympathy for Annabelle as she struggles to come forward about Betty's actions, and definitely share in the frustration when it at least one case, it's still too late to stop a tragedy in the making.
When Betty disappears and the story turns into an indictment on how a community can blame and indict the one person who doesn't fit in with all the rest, Wolk makes it a point to challenge readers into thinking just why WWI vet Toby is an easier person to blame than all the rest. She gently points out just how Toby's differences are in many cases a question of aesthetic - there's a sobering, touching scene where Toby is accepted at face-value, when he is dressed to look like everyone else - and how we shouldn't judge just because a person may look and react differently in certain situations.
While the book ends in a way that implies that there is a point where the universe will right the wrongs of the world, it isn't without a price. Wolf Hollow doesn't necessarily end happily, but it does end with a reminder that we can always stand up against prejudices, and likely help broaden the views and opinions of others for the better.
Of special note: (with some minor spoilers) Though it's difficult to read at times, Wolk doesn't hesitate to show the genuine cruelty and cost of Betty's behavior, including permanent injuries to some of her victims.
While it's frustrating to see Betty essentially get away with said behavior, Wolk makes it a point of showing Annabelle handling her knowledge of Betty's actions in a way that's mature and smart. Not only does she tell her parents and other authority figures as soon as she's able, Annabelle also recognizes that she can't necessarily control what her family and neighbors choose to believe about Betty or Toby through sheer words alone.
Instead, she makes it a point to show Toby's innocence through positive action. Though everything doesn't necessarily work out in the way that Annabelle would want, it still leaves a lasting and significant impact on those around her.
Through a period of turmoil and change, Annabelle learns the best and worst of humanity, including her own role in helping ensure that people are given a fair advantage in a world that may not always bestow that same sense of fairness. While the book ultimately isn't a happy one, it's a story that will encourage readers to think about their own lives, and how they react to adversity, challenges and doing the right thing.
Highly recommend for all readers, full-stop.
About the author:
Lauren Wolk is an award-winning poet and author of the adult novel Those Who Favor Fire. She was born in Baltimore and has since lived in California, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Canada, and Ohio. She now lives with her husband and two sons on Cape Cod. She is also a contributing editor for OWL, an award-winning children’s magazine.