Wild Bird by Wendelin Van Draanen


by Wendelin Van Draanen
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

Ok, I had my doubts, but holy crap this book. Wren’s story is told in flashbacks, going both forward from the moment she is abducted from her bed by a police officer and taken to a wilderness therapy camp in Utah, and from the beginning of her friendship with a girl named Meadow, going forward to how Wren’s life unraveled to the point of needing drastic measures.

It appears that Wren’s problems started when her family moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles for promotions for each of her parents. With the money came a larger home and more space to lose each other, as Wren realizes. Her close, cozy family started to unravel and she appeared to have taken it the hardest. Her older sister made new friends right away and went on her merry way, but Wren got teased for her name. The only person who would befriend her was Meadow, who suffered the same fate. But Meadow mistreats Wren, who, though she tries hard to break off the friendship and make other friends, is unsuccessful and eventually falls back into shoplifting and pot-smoking (Wren is in 6th grade when this starts).

I was very skeptical that Wren’s journey of 8 weeks in therapy camp would be able to be told realistically and touchingly, but it is. Van Draanen’s writing is so natural – angry, closed, sad, pensive, revengeful, and penitent – that each turn in her winding road is completely believable and you both love and pity her by the end. Sure, she made decisions, but she did them to adapt to circumstances beyond her control, and in reaction to parents and an older sister who didn’t pay attention until it was too late. Yet, it’s so easy to see how her family didn’t notice, and they are painted as complex beings with their own needs too, and so you can also see how they made the decisions they made.

At various points all the way through, I was sobbing along with Wren. I had the misfortune of finishing this up in a breakroom full of lunching coworkers (all reading silently, thankfully, except there was no chatting to cover up my sniffling) so I couldn’t fully revel in a good cry, but it was still cathartic to finish it, toss the book down in front of the teen librarian, and dramatically flop over and weep about having a book hangover. And then go back to work.

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