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Wilder Girls

Book review by
Lucinda Dyer, Common Sense Media
Wilder Girls Book Poster Image
Teen girls band together in violent dystopian thriller.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Thriller meant to entertain. 

Positive Messages

Even in the most difficult and terrifying times, friendships can keep you strong.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Hetty, Byatt, and Reece are relentless in their determination to protect one another and to find out what's really happening on the island. And all the girls have had to learn to work together to ensure their survival. They have to become bold (serving on Boat Shift and Gun Shift), caring and gentle when one of their number relapses from the Tox, and fierce when they find themselves in danger and have have to respond with lethal force.

Violence

Some of the girls are armed with (and use) rifles, pistols, and knives to protect themselves from the island's Tox-infected animals and at times one another. Characters are slammed to the floor, bitten, stabbed, and shot. A girl has her throat ripped out by a fox. Descriptions of characters suffering from the Tox are vivid and often bloody — minds driven mad by the virus, skin that's turned to shiny scales, weeping sores, blood dripping constantly from a body part, an extra spine growing on a girl's body. A deer is shot and wounded by a student and then eaten alive by another deer. A young man hangs himself.

Sex

Two girls kiss, and a girl and young man exchange a single kiss.

Language

A few uses of "f--k," "s--t,", "Jesus," and "goddamn."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Rory Power's Wilder Girls is a dystopian thriller set on a remote island off the coast of Maine. The Raxter School for Girls has been quarantined for 18 months because of the Tox, a deadly virus that kills or disfigures both humans and animals. Those still alive at the school wait for a cure promised by the government. And as they wait, more girls die. Told in alternating chapters by 16-year-old best friends, Hetty and Byatt, the story is often violent and graphically recounted. Girls use rifles, pistols, and knives to protect themselves from the island's Tox-stricken and blood thirsty animals, and sometimes even each other. Characters are slammed to the floor, bitten, stabbed, and shot. Two girls realize they've fallen in love with each other but go no further than kissing, and there are a few uses of profanity ("f--k," "s--t,", "Jesus," and "goddamn").

 

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What's the story?

WILDER GIRLS begins 18 months after a mysterious virus called the Tox has killed or maimed all the humans and animals on a remote island off the coast of Maine. The island's sole occupant, the Raxter School for Girls, has been quarantined by the government and only a small group of girls, one teacher, and the headmistress are still alive. All of the survivors bear terrible scars from the Tox, and relapses (often fatal) are common. To protect themselves from dangers known and unknown, the girls learn how to shoot, and when on Gun Shift, stand guard on the school roof. Because of the quarantine, they've been forbidden to go outside of the fence surrounding the school. Only the Boat Shift, girls who pick up supplies left by the Navy, have permission to venture out. This is a dangerous task, as the woods around the school are now filled with animals the Tox has transformed into bloodthirsty beasts who've attacked and killed students. Like everyone at the school, 16-year-old best friends Hetty (a scholarship student) and Byatt (a rich kid from Boston) and their roommate, Reece (daughter of the school's groundskeeper), are waiting for the cure promised by the government. But that's never come and the food and supplies left by the Navy are barely enough to keep them alive.  When Hetty is assigned to the Boat Shift, she discovers that all is not as it seems on the island. Then, Byatt falls ill and disappears from the school's infirmary.

Is it any good?

The violence in this often-grisly dystopian novel never overshadows the core of its compelling story of girls unprepared for an almost apocalyptic event who band together to create a new society. A society in which they must be caring and supportive and also make unimaginable choices about life and death for some of their own. There's a horrible virus, terrifying beasts roaming the woods, and a mystery to be solved -- and the empowered teens in Wilder Girls bravely step up and take it all on.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the students in Wilder Girls create a life for themselves centered not on classes and grades but survival. What role would you have played on Raxter Island? Would you have been a Gun Shift or Boat Shift girl?

  • If you'd had a chance to escape through the fence surrounding the school, would you have taken it? Or would you have continued to wait for the government's promised cure for the Tox?

  • If you were quarantined on island like Raxter, who would you want with you? What character strengths or talents made you choose them?

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