This is a book about teenagers in the woods.
I’m fairly conflicted over this novel. I finished it yesterday and noticed it had taken me a while to get through. I wasn’t clamoring to read it in my every moment of free time. It’s not a difficult read by any means – but it didn’t exactly hold my interest as much as I hoped. The big plot premise: teens at a wilderness ‘school’ for a term (again, they’re in Australia… why do I keep picking books set there?), 2 narrators from different worlds (Sibylla and Lou), shenanigans, romance, dealing with loss and grief… that seemed to be something I could get behind. But all in all, I was left wanting after finishing this. The story just wasn’t what I wanted it to be. There were a variety of plot points happening and it would’ve been nice to maybe really focus a bit more. But that’s hard with multiple characters with different motivations and stuff. Also, the ending was so saccharine that I was afraid of a sugar rush to the head.
Firstly, stuff I really enjoyed:
- The portrayal of Lou’s grief. I’ve been there and fully understand losing someone your own age, someone you love dearly. It’s shocking and jarring. Lou liked to be left alone. It was interesting watching her slowly learn to face the world again over the course of the book.
- Michael. He was a great character and I think he should’ve had more time in the spotlight. He’s weird, and different, and he brought very unique thoughts out into the open.
- The portrayal of the environments. Fiona (the author) did a gorgeous job describing the scenery. The visuals. I felt like I was there, I really did. It was easy to imagine the camp and the natural beauty.
Secondly, stuff I wasn’t crazy about:
- Sibylla’s name. Seriously? Sibylla?
- The dual narration. Sometimes I couldn’t follow who was telling their part of the story. I learned that Sibylla’s parts were normal, and Lou’s were begun with journal entries. But that was hard to catch on to.
- Sib’s relationship with Holly. They weren’t friends, they were frenemies. Sib needed to grow a backbone, desperately, well before she started realizing Holly sucked.
- Sib’s relationship with the golden boy, who I already forget his name. *looks it up* Oh yes, Ben. Ben’s character was so one-dimensional. All he seemed to care about was sex and being popular. He also sucked.
- The sex. Sib didn’t seem too keen on doing it, but she did it anyway. And it all seemed so… casual. And that was sad.
- The giant words. Lots of the teen dialogue seemed intensely unrealistic. It just did.
I wanted more from Lou about the boy she lost. We hardly learned much about him, with the exception of knowing about his accident and a few other details. I wanted Sibylla to be more assertive and realize how fabulous Michael was. I wanted more Michael in general. I feel like this book, the characters, the story, they all got a little lost in the wilderness.
If I had to sum up the book in a sentence, I’d say that Sib & Lou battle their own personal demons at wilderness camp, and then become besties with each other and Michael so that’s a happy ending.
Best quote from the book:
“I’ve seen you reading—sometimes you open a book, and you’re just… gone. Even with your friends—it’s like you disappear.”
(this wasn’t my favorite quote, but my Kindle is at home and I have no time to go find my highlights)
3 / 5