Book Review

Book Review of Wild Children by Richard Roberts

Wild Children

Wild Children (Click to see the book on Amazon)

Wild Children is like a cross between historical fiction, fantasy, fairy-tales, and science fiction all wrapped up into one strange and yet enjoyable package. O.K. I'm sure that's not a helpful description so I'll try again. I think the novel reminds me most of a fairy-tale for adults (although it could be read by a Y.A. audience).

The setting feels like the story happens in the past. There is a small village with a one room schoolhouse, a distant crowded city where an upper crust segment of the population lives, religion is an important and powerful part of the society, there are carts pulled by animals and no mention of modern technology. Everything is like our own world in a bygone time except that, when a child is between the ages of 6 and 14, s/he can turn into an animal. It's thought that this is the punishment for the child's sins, although it turns out this is not necessarily the case.

Children are given a warning such as the one given to Jenny by Father Birch - if she takes too many steps down a path of disobedience, she'll become a wild child. Wild Children are nearly immortal and the change that overtakes them can happen in varying degrees. Some of the children turn completely animal - unable to communicate and living life just like their real animal counterparts. Others only change a little and are kept as pets or slaves. Those who keep wild children are frowned upon by the church as it's believed these "forever" children will corrupt their owners. They are all cute and appealing and yet often shunned and disliked. For those that are loved, it's a hard road watching your owner grow old while time for you seems to stand still.

The story is told through different acts and told from different Wild Child perspectives and each act can stand on its own, although it's connected to the others in different ways. It starts out with Jenny's story and is told in a convincingly "young" voice sprinkled with humor at times such as this moment: "I ran a hand back through my hair as I felt the breeze on it, only I couldn't, really, because a hoof doesn't have fingers. Oh, right. Hooves. Crud. I was still a donkey girl." The story is told via first person narrative and is as if the children are sharing their memories with all the warmth, pain and discovery remembered crystal clearly and at other times misty and imperfect. The author is great at communicating their feelings and making you care for each one.

This is NOT my usual reading fare and yet I found myself being drawn into the novel because I cared about the characters. It was an altogether strange book and yet poignant and sad and beautiful all at the same time.

I was intrigued by the cover showing a girl with a tail and ears, but now after reading the book - the cover didn't do it justice. I wish they had decided to put one of the characters named Coo on the cover and made it more realistic and hauntingly beautiful, as it could have been. As it is, the cover looks kind of like a cartoon and just doesn't convey the strange depth and beauty of the narrative. If you are in the mood for something different, that will stay with you and is thought provoking, Wild Children is a worthwhile read. I'm giving it 4 stars instead of 5 because there were some moments when I was sitting there thinking someone must have been on drugs to write it (think Alice in Wonderland or Pinocchio), LOL because sometimes it was just that weird...and yet, for the most part, it worked. ;-)

*I recieved a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

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