3/20/2017- YA Books Central- Interview
3/21/2017- Just Commonly- Review
3/22/2017- Falling For YA- Guest Post
3/23/2017- MEREADALOT- Review
3/24/2017- BookHounds YA- Interview
3/27/2017- A Backwards Story- Review
3/28/2017- A Gingerly Review- Excerpt
3/29/2017- Book Briefs- Review
3/30/2017- Mundie Moms- Interview
3/31/2017- Library of a Book Witch- Review
"Sometimes it's not what we do of our own accord, but what we do despite it going against our nature" She nods. "That's how you love."
~Ms. Wade, HEAR THE WOLVES
Who doesn't love a good survival story? A character out in the elements, in extreme situations, just trying to make it through another hour, another day. It can be hard to find good survival stories for the middle-grade readers out there, but HEAR THE WOLVES by Victoria Scott adds an amazing option to your bookshelves.
Our main character, Sloan, lives in a small isolated town in Rusic, Alaska. People say you have to be made of a certain sort of willful fierceness to live in places like that, but as the story opens we can see that Sloan is a very fragile character, and she's extremely ashamed of this fact. It is revealed that a few years prior her mother had abandoned the family with a striking suddenness. Sloan didn't handle this upset very well, fleeing from her home and into the woods were she managed to survive on her own for five days, though not without consequence. The harsh conditions cost Sloan her hearing in one ear, and earned her labels among her neighbors that haunt her. It's understandable that such an ordeal would leave a character with a little fear of abandonment, and Sloan acknowledges that she's overly dependent on other people, on not being alone. Scott portrays this through the narration via this really pretty imagery of Sloan throwing an imaginary lasso over the people she's using as her stabilizing companions.
The story picks up fast, with Sloan being left behind by her father and sister, who with a majority of the rest of the townsfolk, have gone across the river to vote on keeping townships separate. Sloan is horrified at being left alone with no warning, but her father leaves a note insisting this would be a good chance for her to realize she's okay and nothing bad comes with being on your own. Of course mother nature decides to almost immediately oppose that sentiment, and an unexpected blizzard hits the town. Sloan and five other people who stayed behind find their way to each other, but one of them is terribly injured. There is no doctor in Rusic, and any hope of saving the very sweet and grandmotherly Ms. Wade falls on making it across the river to Vernon. Some of the other characters are hesitant about this plan, but here we see the first moments where Sloan's survival skills cause her to step forward as the leader. It would be hard enough to travel through a blizzard in and of itself, but the group soon finds themselves being hunted by a pack of hungry wolves.
What I think I love the most about a good survival story is that extreme conditions like this are a veritable buffet of opportunities for character development. Sloan is quiet, frightened, clingy at the beginning of the story, left with unresolved feelings about her mother and a sense that her traveling companions view her as weak and stupid. The truth is she's a great hunter, and her survival skills are exactly what this group needs to make it through their ordeal. The characters begin to acknowledge this, and Sloan slowly starts to have moments where she feels proud of herself. There's a great line in the story where she's surveying a character named Nash who is grumpy, volatile, pretty much the town jerk/drunk, and not someone her other companions wanted to come along for the ride. She makes a really great notation that Nash is not all good or ugly, perhaps a bit more of the latter, but we all have both in us. And what's great here is that every single character has a moment where they are terrified or unsure, and those moments make Sloan feel just a little less torn about her own fragile pieces. There was a moment where Ms. Wade, who swiftly became one of my favorite characters, pulls Sloan aside and is quite frankly the first and only person to tell the girl that it's okay to feel fragile and clingy. I think it takes a while for those words to settle under Sloan's skin, but she slowly starts to see that she's brave, intuitive and so many other wonderful things. While reading I felt as if every character in this band of human travelers offered something unique to the journey. Each of them had a moment where they contributed something that got Sloan and the others another step further, and none of them felt like empty sidekicks.
I've read quite a few of Scott's stories, and the best thing about her writing is that she has such an amazing way with imagery. All the scenes of stark white wilderness are haunting, and make the intensity and danger of the situation palpable for the reader. I found myself clenching the edges of the papers, wincing when I could feel a tense fight coming. Any time the pack of wolves came I pretty much had goosebumps, and the way she wrote about them through Sloan's eyes was amazing. As a hunter herself Sloan finds herself feeling a deep understanding of the pack, even seeing a bit of herself in a small gray female who is the best hunter of the group but seems to lack respect from her companions. Through the narration the wolves are beautiful, terrifying, and while they are hunting our main characters Scott is very careful to add some tension here that makes you question whether the wolves are villains or just unfortunate victims in and of themselves. There's a lot of talk about the fact that the townspeople of Rusic had allowed the snowshoe hare population to increase, which left the wolves with full bellies and the energy to breed. Their numbers grew, and then the snowshoe hares became a problem, so the townspeople plowed down the hare's homes. Without their burrows most of them were not surviving the winter, and the booming wolf population was suddenly left hungry. Especially with the addition that big game had grown scarce as well when a fence put up to keep them in backfired. This is a great way to explore the effect humanity has on the natural order, the way we can think ourselves respectful of nature, unaware that our actions are actually having ripple effects. The wolves in this story are not inherently bad, but merely responding to situations beyond their control. As much as the human characters are trying to survive, so is the pack. We feel Sloan ruminating over this whenever she's watching the wolves, and there's this great duality between the imagery of the story and her own thoughts that creates a picture of compassion that only makes the storyline itself all the more emotional.
What HEAR THE WOLVES by Victoria Scott does is pair a story of physical survival with that of emotional survival. Sloan is trying to stay alive, to make it to her father and sister, and that physical struggle is very real and very emotionally intense. But the emotional journey she goes through in the process, dealing with the loss of her mother in beautifully times flashbacks, facing fears she didn't know she had and facing the views she thinks her companions have of her, it's an equally important bout of character growth that had me tearing up with compassion for her. This book makes you ask What If? What if I was caught in a situation like this . . . would I survive? Would I know how to keep a level head and stay alive another day? It also asks very real questions about the human affect on nature and wildlife, and at the end of the book there's a really great note from the author about her research on wolves and a trip to a wolf sanctuary that had me tearing up all over again. All in all this book is friendship and growth of the self, it's action and adrenaline and soft moments of raw depictions of the human condition, all beautifully arranged to be appropriate for a middle grade audience. I read it in one sitting, simply couldn't put it down, and I honestly haven't been this in love with a middle grade piece of survival fiction in a long time. And yet I feel like a teen could read this and pull just as much entertainment and thought from it.
So if you're in the mood to brave a blizzard and a pack of hungry wolves from the comfort of your home, pick up a copy of HEAR THE WOLVES by Victoria Scott, which comes out TOMORROW!!!!
You could win one of THREE copies of HEAR THE WOLVES!
To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below!
To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below!