Daven's Reviews > Wildwood

Wildwood by Colin Meloy
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's review
Dec 23, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: ya-fiction
Read in February, 2012

What an enjoyable read this was.

I confess to entering into this novel with conflicting feelings. I attended a young adult literature conference back in October. As we were getting settled in to listen to the keynote speaker (no less than Mike Lupica, not to drop names or anything . . . ), I caught glimpse of a confusingly familiar face moving across the periphery of the large, crowded room: Isn't that Colin Maloy of The Decemberists? I thought. Yeah, right, and he'd be at a young adult literature conference in Naperville, Illinois . . . Uh huh.

Well, gentle skeptics, I met Colin Maloy of The Decemberists that day, along with the very talented illustrator and wife of Maloy, Carson Ellis. This fine YA fantasy, Wildwood, is their collaborative effort, which of course I snatched up and marched over to their signing table with. I didn't let on that I knew of his other life, as the frontman for one of my most-admired bands. I'm a near-50-year-old slightly grizzled father of three; it's not flattering to gush in such a condition. Plus, I considered it thoughtful of me to let him bask in the relative anonymity of a YA lit conference, where the heavy majority of attendees were middle school librarians who would've thought "Decemberists" was just a catchy term for people really into the upcoming holiday season.

Now, would I have read this book, let alone purchased it, had it not been written by Maloy? Maybe. But, maybe not. I tend to repel as do opposite magnetic poles when it comes to YA fantasy. I try, believe me. But when fuzzy creatures begin to speak in clever tones, I recoil. My ability to heave that tonnage of suspension of disbelief just isn't present in these spindly arms of mine. So . . . a weighty dilemma now presented itself; gadzooks, Maloy had written a full-fledged fantasy, replete with (literally) armies of verbose forest inhabitants! I steeled myself with continuous listens of The Decemberists' wondrous "The King is Dead" CD, and dove in.

No, I wasn't fully taken in immediately, but skillfully and wonderfully, the world of Wildwood captured me. The story centers on the 12-year-old Prue, whose toddler brother is carted away from a neighborhood park by a murder of crows due to her momentary lapse in vigilance. The child disappears into the thick Impenetrable Wilderness across the Willamette River of Portland, Oregon. Prue frantically follows, taking readers fully into an alternate world, where contingents of creatures (both four-legged and human) vascillate between diplomacy and all-out warfare. Prue and her sort-of friend, Curtis, are quickly separated in the depths of Wildwood. Their storylines separate, and then gradually and dramatically intertwine again.

Certainly, there are elements of this novel that have been presented in past YA fantasies -- a cruel-minded Dowager Governess bent on ruling over the forest at whatever risk of bloodletting, whimsical animals who spar, cajole, and nurture, a flawed yet perfectly heroic rebel leader. (My favorite: a rabbit sentinel sporting a colander -- yes, a colander -- as a helmet, and closing nearly every sentence with a perfunctory "So." I grinned every time he spoke, bless his furry little head.)

But despite the familiarity of these elements, the novel possesses such charm and such three-dimensionality that I became very happily and very willingly "lost" in Wildwood. And the fringes of darkness in Maloy's writing prevents Wildwood from becoming merely a fluffy escape. (You want Maloy darkness? -- check out the lyrics to his "The Rake's Song" on the CD "The Hazards of Love" -- yipes . . . )

Reading Wildwood, I was a surrounded reader. For what better reason do we read? And so, in the closing pages, when Prue emerges from the wilderness, to return to the reality of urban life, much to her parents' joy, I was nothing but melancholy. I didn't want to leave. Toss me some trail mix, throw a colander on my grizzled head, and let me talk to the animals. I'm there.
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Reading Progress

12/23/2011 page 50
01/31/2012 page 130
23.0% "A fun escape into fantasy woods of Portland OR. Clever and whimsical, with a dark edge."
02/19/2012 page 360
64.0% "Fun to get lost in . . . almost literally."
06/12/2016 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Daven (last edited Feb 24, 2012 09:04AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Daven Lesa wrote: "I love The Mysterious Benedict Society books, and this has the same illustrator. I'm looking forward to reading your review."

I'll have the check these out; her artwork is worth looking for. Although I failed to mention in my write -up of Wildwood, Ellis's illustrations provide a wonderful layer of depth and pleasure to the book. Her work added almost a retro feel, like one of those childhood books pulled from the primary school shelves, smelling of glue paste and construction paper . . . But, hey, I'm dating myself, aren't I?

Daven You're very kind. I figure no one reads our reviews or comments, so it's nice to know someone does once in a while. I have come to enjoy writing about the books I read. It's a very pleasant diversion, especially after reading, oh say, 58 sparsely developed short stories riddled with goofy errors (just read one that references the "Dairy of Anne Frank"! Let's raise a glass of milk to that one!)
Thanks for reading; it's fun to talk with you.

Caroline Horgan Just five chapters into this one, but indeed, a very enjoyable read. Almost as enjoyable as your review. Looking forward to this cast of whimsical animals and the fate of little Mac.

Daven Caroline wrote: "Just five chapters into this one, but indeed, a very enjoyable read. Almost as enjoyable as your review. Looking forward to this cast of whimsical animals and the fate of little Mac."

Thanks for the thumbs up, Caroline. I hope you enjoy Wildwood as I did. It's worth getting lost in.

- Daven

Kerrie Bethel Teach me to write reviews like this! Or just write a book. I like your sentences. :)

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