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Book Review: Feral Youth edited by Shaun David Hutchinson

Publisher’s description

ra6Ten teens are left alone in the wilderness during a three-day survival test in this multi-authored novel edited by award-winning author Shaun David Hutchinson.

At Zeppelin Bend, an outdoor-education program designed to teach troubled youth the value of hard work, cooperation, and compassion, ten teens are left alone in the wild. The teens are a diverse group who come all walks of life, and were all sent to Zeppelin Bend as a last chance to get them to turn their lives around. They’ve just spent nearly two weeks hiking, working, learning to survive in the wilderness, and now their instructors have dropped them off eighteen miles from camp with no food, no water, and only their packs, and they’ll have to struggle to overcome their vast differences if they hope to survive.

Inspired by The Canterbury Tales, the characters in Feral Youth, each complex and damaged in their own ways, are enticed to tell a story (or two) with the promise of a cash prize. The stories range from noir-inspired revenge tales to mythological stories of fierce heroines and angry gods. And while few of the stories are claimed to be based in truth, they ultimately reveal more about the teller than the truth ever could.


Amanda’s thoughts

feralFirst things first: the stories in this book are written by Shaun David Hutchinson, Suzanne Young, Marieke Nijkamp, Robin Talley, Stephanie Kuehn, E. C. Myers, Tim Floreen, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Justina Ireland, Brandy Colbert.


Great lineup, right?


Zeppelin Bend camp, in Wyoming, is the last chance these characters have to turn their lives around. They’re all there for the trouble they landed themselves in. But as they each reveal their story (or parts of their stories, or dance around their stories), readers come to understand that the characters are (of course) more than just their alleged crimes and that they made the choices they did for very complicated reasons. The stories cover a lot of ground: arson, rape, bullying, revenge, theft, drugs, dress codes, runaways, fairy tales, mythology, other worlds, paranormal activity, ghosts, horror, and more. Some of the stories come in bits and pieces. It’s hard to tell what’s the whole story, if the narrators can be trusted, and who might by lying. But the one thing all these stories do is show the characters to be multifaceted people. At one point, Lucinda notes, “Our parents see us as these problems to solve, delinquents to deal with. But we’re more than that.” But, as another character points out, none of that really matters is if all people can see is what they’ve done. And, is what they’ve done really who they are? Does it define them, shape them, change them? And, even if they’re together at camp, and now together for three days as they wander the woods and share their stories, do they still really know each other? Or can you never really know someone? If nothing else, telling their stories gives them some sense of controlling the narrative about them, of being seen and heard, if only for a little bit by a few people.


I really enjoy this multi-author format (like Hutchinson did with VIOLENT ENDS, too). It’s such a smart way to tell a story with a wide cast of characters, one that really benefits from the variety of voices, writing styles, and diversity of identities that the authors bring. This is an easy recommendation, especially for reluctant readers, who may be drawn to the attention-grabbing format and that fast narrative pace. A great choice, too, for those who enjoy unreliable narrators. 


Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

ISBN-13: 9781481491112

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication date: 09/05/2017

Book Review: Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World edited by Kelly Jensen

Publisher’s description

here-we-areLet’s get the feminist party started!

Here We Are is a scrapbook-style teen guide to understanding what it means to be a twenty-first-century feminist. It’s packed with contributions from a diverse range of voices, including TV, film, and pop-culture celebrities and public figures such as ballet dancer Michaela DePrince and her sister Mia and politician Wendy Davis, as well as popular authors like Nova Ren Suma, Malinda Lo, Brandy Colbert, Courtney Summers, and many more. All together, the book features more than forty-four pieces and illustrations.

Here We Are is a response to lively discussions about the true meaning of feminism on social media and across popular culture and is an invitation to one of the most important, life-changing, and exciting parties around.



Amanda’s thoughts

Just go ahead and buy like twenty of these, okay? Give them out for birthdays, for holidays, for graduation gifts. This book is for everyone and makes it clear that feminism is, too.


Set up scrapbook-style, like Rookie, this book packs in a bunch of pieces in a bunch of formats. I read the whole book in one sitting. There are personal essays, poems, song lyrics, comics, letters, lists, illustrations, and more. Readers are given a brief history of feminism and information on its various waves. Chapters are divided up by themes like Body and Mind, Relationships, Culture and Pop Culture, etc. The contributions range from less than a page long to much longer. Some pieces are original and some were previously published elsewhere. A sampling of some of my favorites: Kody Keplinger’s “Feminist Songs To Sing Along To” playlist; Malinda Lo’s essay on her paternal grandmother who introduced her to feminist heroes in literature and created young Malinda’s ideal of a feminist; Anne Theriault’s “The Monster Book of Questions,” which examines feminism and mental health; Angie Manfredi’s piece about the word “fat” and how feminism helped her take the word back and embrace it; the always brilliant Liz Prince’s comic “I Guess This Is Growing Up,” about moving from misogyny to feminism; Mikki Kendall’s essay on inclusive feminism, the many ways to be a feminist and approaches to feminism, and how feminism doesn’t mean you’re still not biased, harmful, ignorant, and exclusive; Ashley Hope Perez’s piece on being a nice girl feminist (and the nice girl commandments we all have to learn to break); and Kaye Mirza’s essay on being a feminist and a Muslim. FAQs are interspersed, asking things like, “What does intersectional feminism mean?” and “Is there a difference between ‘sex’ and ‘gender’?” Fun lists include women scientists, black girl friendships, and great girl friendships in fiction.

This diverse, inclusive, intersectional, and immensely readable anthology needs to be in every school, public, and personal library. A fantastic read.



Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781616205867

Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill

Publication date: 01/24/2017