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Review: Wild Bird by Wendelin Van Draanen

Title: Wild Bird
Author: Wendelin Van Draanen
Year Published: 2017

Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 311
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2017 Google Reading map)USA (Utah)

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school library

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): 3:47am. That's when they come for Wren Clemmens. She's hustled out of her house and into a waiting car, then a plane, and then taken on a forced march into the desert. This is what happens to kids who've gone so far off the rails, their parents don't know what to do with them anymore. This is wilderness therapy camp.

The Wren who arrives in the Utah desert is angry and bitter, and blaming everyone but herself. But angry ant' put up a tent. And bitter won't start a fire. Wren's going to have to admit she needs help if she's going to survive.

Review: I have really enjoyed Van Draanen's books in the past having read many of the Sammy Keys mysteries with my daughter when she was young. And I was very impressed with her YA novel, The Running Dream when I read it years ago. Wild Bird did not disappoint.

Wren is angry. So very angry. And Van Draanen does a great job of mixing the present when Wren is in the desert of Utah at wilderness therapy camp with Wren's past digressions. "Camp" is really not a great word for it; it's boot camp for juvenile delinquents. Jail would be another good word. Wren's past is pretty intense for a 14-year-old and the author showed how kids get pulled into bad behavior, how much they want to be accepted, to have friends, and to have people who understand them. And what is a parent to do? Wren's think they are handling it, but obviously they aren't. This camp seems like a last resort and I would agree.

Surviving in the desert, learning basic skills, dealing with anger, sadness, trust, and being honest about one's actions is tough at any age, but as a teenager it's probably especially difficult. The counselors and other girls help Wren (and themselves) deal with their problems in an honest way. I didn't feel like everything was going to be perfect for these girls, but I did feel hope. Hope that they learned about themselves and other and how to cope when they return to "normal" life. They seem stronger, more sure of themselves, and more aware of the pitfalls that they will face back in the world of school, family, and friends.

I also liked the inclusion of the Native American character who visits them, helps them connect to the earth, and see beyond themselves and their own problems. 

Challenges for which this counts:

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