Our Wildwood, Winter 2018, Volume 42

Book Shelf


Transitions in writing serve to provide readers with language to help connect ideas and to move smoothly from one happening to the next. Life transitions, however, are not always so fluid. A lovely benefit to being a reader is being invited into a bumpy life with characters who do not always move easily from place to place, school to school, home to home—yet we experience their life encounters with ease because of the craft of the writer and skilled use of transitions. Regardless of whether transitions are bumpy or smooth, they are necessary and move stories and our lives forward. 

MY ABSOLUTE DARLING by Gabriel Tallent Reviewed by Jill Thomas WILDWOOD PARENT

Set on the Mendocino coast, this beautifully written, stunningly poignant debut novel is told from the perspective of Turtle, a 14-year-old girl moving into adulthood. Raised in isolation by her abusive, survivalist father, and on the cusp of entering high school, Turtle makes her first friend, who provides her with a glimpse of what a healthy, supportive family looks like. As Turtle gains self-awareness and insight into her situation, she begins the terrifying process of breaking free from her violent, domineering father.

Ironically, the survivalist skills that her father has drilled into Turtle provide her with the skills and confidence needed to literally fight for her life. This book is raw and emotional and realistically deals with very difficult topics—incest, abuse, and domestic violence. Its portrayal of the abuse cycle—of smothering obsessive affection punctuated by unpredictable violence and volatility—is chilling. This book comes highly recommended, but only for the most mature upper school readers and for adults.

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL (BOOK ONE) by Soman Chainani Reviewed by Phoebe A. 7TH GRADER

In this library primeval is a story of good and evil—with two characters that are best friends, one good and one wicked. Because neither is a fool, they are both chosen to attend school. There’s one place, but it’s only for special types of people: It’s a place called The School for Good and Evil. The school master decides the rules, but he puts the girls in the wrong schools. The schools and their new students don’t at first get along, but somehow they might be where they both belong. This story grabs your attention and holds it tight. You’ll want to keep reading late into the night. Try to stop reading and you’ll always fail. The only way out is to . finish the tale.

THE APOTHECARY by Maile Meloy Reviewed by Ivy Jane Klein ’11 ALUMNA

The Apothecary is a fantastical novel of alchemy, world-saving, and young romance set in London during the 1950s at the incipit of Cold War tension. The story revolves around Janie Scott, a Los Angeles native who at her parents’ will moves with them to London to avoid political persecution, and her mysterious crush, Benjamin Burrows who just happens to be the son of a not-so-ordinary Apothecary. Unexpectedly, the Apothecary disappears, leaving only a sacred, centuries-old book of alchemical elixirs and potions,

the Pharmacopoeia, in the hands of his son and a trail of dangerous Soviet spies to follow. Janie and Benjamin are left to unravel the mysteries of the Pharmacopeia, find Benjamin’s father, and ultimately save all of humanity. The Apothecary is a lot of fun to read. It transports the reader to a very cold, Cold War London and thoroughly engages the imagination with incredible transformative alchemical elixirs and the looming threat of espionage.

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