The End of the Wild by Nicole Helget

I spent the weekend before Thanksgiving at NCTE, one of my favorite conferences. One of the best parts of the conference is picking up advanced reader copies of books that will be published in the upcoming year. Today I’m happy to share with you a great book coming out in April 2017 from Little, Brown and Company: Nicole Helget‘s The End of the Wild. 

In this realistic middle grades book, Helget weaves together a wonderful story of family, grief, and compromise. Still suffering from the loss of her mother and a brother, the main character Fern is caught between the father who raised her and a grandpa who wants to take her and her remaining brothers away from him. Fern’s struggle is only intensified when the woods she feels connect her to her mother are being threatened by the fracking industry.

Here’s what I LOVE about this book:

(1) Its sense of place. Helget writes in such a way that readers can see Fern’s home, the roads on which she walks to school, and the woods where she feels so comfortable. The End of the Wild can serve as a mentor text for writers wanting to add more of a sense of place to their work.

(2) It’s an environmental book. Fracking has become such a controversial issue in many American communities. Articulating fracking’s environmental and economic facets, Helget leaves it up to the reader to come to his or her own conclusion about fracking. This book is a wonderful conversation starter.

(3) It’s a book about what family really means. Fern’s grandfather does not believe her stepfather provides what Fern and her brothers need. But Fern is resolute in her decision to live with him even though her grandfather can provide more material possessions. The End of the Wild provides a space to consider what kids really need to be successful. Miss Tassel, who helps Fern’s family figure out an agreeable solution to the conflict between the stepfather and the grandfather, exemplifies just what type of person can come from rough situations.

(4) It’s a book about forgiveness and compromise. Like many middle grade students, Fern can be righteous and is set in her ways. But Helget’s story provides a few opportunities for Fern to learn an important lesson: We, like the branches in the woods, have to learn to bend.

Here is a critique of the book:

(1) Adults’ language. Whereas I felt Helget does a great job providing Fern with a voice, I felt the adults (e.g. Miss Tassel at times) in the book become a bit too preachy in certain places. It did not happen so much to totally annoy me, but there are definitely times when I wanted the adults to have less of a voice.

Here’s an NPR story featuring Nicole Neglet. She’s speaking about her novel Stillwater.

Can’t wait to share more 2017 titles with you soon!

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