Monday, June 19, 2017

Wolf Hollow

*This post contains affiliate links that I may receive commission from; however, all thoughts and opinions are my own.*

My reading goal this year was to read a variety of genres, not just my favorites. I have so many thoughts on this book, let's just get to it.

Wolf Hollow - Lauren Wolk

Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.

Brilliantly crafted, Wolf Hollow is a haunting tale of America at a crossroads and a time when one girl’s resilience, strength, and compassion help to illuminate the darkest corners of our history.

I have to tell you this book is geared towards the elementary reader but I'm almost inclined to push it to the middle school reader because it's that... I am really at a loss for the right word (thanks, stroke!). You know how they say some books just come to you for a reason? I feel like this book was that for me. If you are a regular reader of my blog you will recall a recent post where I talked about some struggles my oldest daughter has had with a classmate of hers that has, in some ways, mirrored Annabelle and Betty's relationship. In Wolf Hollow, Annabelle is 12 (which is about the same age as my daughter) and their school gets a new student, Betty Glengarry.

Annabelle is kind and tries to befriend Betty but quickly learns that Betty is cruel and manipulative. She's mean to everyone but she finds Annabelle an easy target and things quickly escalate as her actions become threatening towards Annabelle's younger brothers, and Annabelle's best friend becomes victim to a particularly violent attack. Things take a more sinister turn when the local recluse, Toby, becomes a target for Betty as everyone blames him for her disappearance, fearing the worse. Annabelle, certain of his innocence, needs to find the courage (and evidence) to stand up to Betty and show all of the adults what Betty has been doing.

Now. That's a really watered down version of the story because I don't want to give to much away. Basically, Betty is a sociopath. She's pure evil. This story is taking place during a time when mental health isn't taken seriously and we don't know much about it, it's taking place during a time when World War II is happening (or just happened, I can't remember- I finished this book about 3 months ago, I'm behind on reviews! Oops!), so people aren't happy with Germans in particular and we're in small town America. Small town America all that time ago and you can kind of picture what would happen if a young girl goes missing and a town recluse is assumed to have taken her, it's guilty until someone else confesses situation.

And then we have the whole issue of Betty herself, she's bad news. Annabelle tried to ask for help and she tried to warn others of Betty but no adults believed her. Surely Betty wouldn't really be that cruel, girls wouldn't do that! But yes, girls can and often do awful things. Throughout this book I kept picturing my daughter as Annabelle. This entire school year I had told her, several times, "just be nice", "try to be kind, you don't know what her home life is like", "it isn't her fault her home life is bad", or "maybe if you try to be a good friend you can lead by example", and a variety of other things. I kept telling my daughter to just be nice- and what did it get her? It got her low self esteem, loss of friendships she's had since kindergarten, anxiety and panic attacks, danger for self harm, and a professional mental health counselor. So while I'll absolutely own my part in this, I'm absolutely angry at the other adults she confided in (teacher, counselors, other parents, etc) that didn't do anything and just felt sorry for this other girl. But I love the cover because it says, "The year I turned twelve I learned how to lie. The year I turned twelve I learned what I said and what I did mattered." I know one of those is true for my daughter, I hope the other is true as well.

I would be remiss if I didn't tell you that the book has two significant deaths in it and that both deaths may be hard for a child, particularly fifth grade and under, to process. Both almost feel profound to me, as an adult reader, because they are two major characters, good and evil, but I don't know if a young child will understand what a big deal they are in terms of the greater story. If you're a parent who doesn't want your child to read a story with death in, definitely stay away from this book. I also would recommend reading this book ahead of your child in general anyways because this book begs some conversation, it really does. The cruelty of Betty and the lack of action from all of the action from the adults in Annabelle's life, and just her hidden fear begs a conversation. It makes me wonder if this is how my daughter felt every day this school year and I had no idea? Which just makes me more angry.


Excellent writing. Anytime a book that is entertaining for an adult, which was intended for a child, I greatly approve of. And of course, it was a 2017 Newberry Honor Book and it's no wonder- it's excellent. It gets you right in the feels.

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