Going Wild, Book 1

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Going Wild, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Superpowered series start has thrills, appealing characters.

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Kids say

age 8+
Based on 1 review

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Charlie's mother is a physician, and her father's a biologist, so there's some medical terminology, discussion of local plants and animals in their new home. Lots of miscellaneous detail about landmarks and life in Chicago (such as taking the subway to school) and Arizona (such as a soccer game that's called for rain in Arizona, not because the teams can't take a little moisture but because the ground doesn't absorb the water). Top-secret, apparently gene-altering experiments are behind many of the story's events. One friend's Puerto Rican family mixes Spanish and English phrases and introduces some classic Puerto Rican dishes. As Charlie works on the school play, readers pick up practical details of stagecraft.

Positive Messages

Characters' struggles with their emerging superpowers, and with doing the right thing in complicated situations, will resonate with real-life tweens coping with challenges of their own. As in Lisa McMann's other books, there's a strong message about the powerful bond of loving --- and believably flawed -- families. Also messages about friendship, kindness, hard work, teamwork, and loyalty.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Charlie is highly relatable as she copes with conventional, real-life problems (like being uprooted in the middle of the school year by your mom's job change and plunked down in a new middle school 1,000 miles away) and more extraordinary challenges, such as superpowers that come and go for no reason. Appealingly strong and believably vulnerable, she loves her family and their life together. She has several good friends with positive qualities, notably Maria, who's both popular and kind to everyone and even stays friends with the mean girl because she knows about the trouble she's having at home. Creepy, ninja-costumed goons and sinister mad scientists aside, adult characters, including parents and teachers, are often a bit quirky but also kind, loving, and dependable.


An evil, power-mad scientist will stop at nothing to get Charlie's mysterious bracelet. Mysterious ninja-costumed goons stalk and attack the kids and kidnap and imprison an adult character. In the parallel story, a man breaks into a lab to steal devices and is pursued, captured, beaten, and imprisoned. A mean-girl character kicks another girl's leg in soccer practice, hard enough that everyone's sure it's broken.


A character behaves badly because her parents are getting divorced. Two 12-year-old lifelong BFFs start to get teased about being boyfriend and girlfriend, including choruses of "Kiss the Girl."


Characters say "crap" a few times.


Real-life commercial products and brands appear frequently, including iPad, iPhone, Google, Subaru, mostly to set the scene or advance the story with texts and internet searches. Lots of pop culture references, past and current, such as Spider-Man, Bye Bye Birdie.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know the Going Wild is the first of a middle-grade fantasy trilogy by Lisa McMann (The Unwanteds). As in her other work, there's an intriguing premise (a mysterious bracelet that gives a 12-year-old superpowers -- sometimes), believably complicated characters, and strong positive messages of friendship, family, teamwork, and doing the right thing. There's some scary stuff, as adult characters are kidnapped and imprisoned by a mad scientist, and ninja-suit-wearing goons stalk tweens and try to kidnap them or worse. Also, protagonist Charlie has to start at a new middle school where she doesn't know a soul halfway through sixth grade. The strongest language is a few instances of "crap!" Overall, it's an exciting, relatable series debut with positive values and a major cliffhanger ending. 

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Teen, 14 years old Written byhellofellowhumans May 15, 2018

What's the story?

As GOING WILD opens, a man breaks into a laboratory in the dead of night to steal some devices and is soon captured -- but not before handing something to a mysterious figure who disappears into the darkness. Shortly thereafter, we meet 12-year-old Charlotte (Charlie) Wilde, whose doctor mom's new job has uprooted the family from Chicago to Arizona, in the middle of Charlie's sixth-grade year. Her biologist dad, who's always been the stay-at-home parent, is going back to work. Determined to make the best of it at the new school, Charlie is unpacking her soccer gear when she finds an odd bracelet that seems to be a high-tech sports watch. Figuring it's just what she needs for soccer tryouts, she puts it on. Pretty quickly, things start "going wild," as she suddenly seems to be able to run a lot faster. Her injuries heal up almost instantly. Also, she seems to be able to climb vertical walls. As she comes to terms with the dual challenges of superpowers and middle school, friends and family are there to help -- a good thing, because there's a bad guy out there who wants his bracelet back.

Is it any good?

Best-selling author Lisa McMann's fantasy adventure series is off to a thrilling start as 12-year-old heroes face ninja-suited goons, a mad scientist, and the social minefields of middle school. Suddenly superpowered Charlie and her friends are relatable and appealing, especially because they sometimes do or say things they regret but quickly make things right. Going Wild offers plenty of suspense as the mysterious villain zeroes in on the kids and puts their loved ones in danger. Also plenty of nervous laughs, such as when the kids experiment with heavy lumber and Dumpsters to test Charlie's powers. 

All in all, the tweens and their adventures will keep readers riveted and entertained -- right up to the shocking cliffhanger at the end.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about superpower stories, specifically those where humans possess special powers from the animal kingdom. Why are those tales so intriguing? In the ones you've read, are there downsides to having these powers, or is it all good?

  • Do you think it's worse to have to change schools in the middle of the year than at the beginning? What might be harder? What might be easier?

  • What role does the internet play in Going Wild? How would the story be different if the internet didn't exist?

Book details

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