I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
** spoiler alert ** Sorry, this review is very spoiler-y, as I can't talk about the issues that particularly interested & annoyed me without giving away large chunks of the plot & the ending. Read at your own discretion.
I’m still puzzling over the title of this one—I assume it means that they are in the middle of nowhere and it’s wild. All of this novel takes place in northern Manitoba, a great location to set a survival novel. It’s a wild and unforgiving landscape, requiring skill and luck to survive.
Nowhere Wild does pose a likely scenario—what if a pedophile uses the “opportunity” of a flu pandemic to abduct a girl and drag her off to the wilderness (basically as a sex slave, although that terminology isn’t used). The gravity of her situation sneaks up on Izzy, as she starts feeling less and less comfortable under Rick’s “protection.” She starts putting together remembered bits of conversation and realizing that she is definitely not the first girl that he has abused.
Jake is a young aboriginal man, left in the family’s remote summer camp with his wounded mother and his grandfather. His father, Leland, paddles for help and never returns. Jake and his grandpa eventually bury the mother and survive together until spring, the grandpa pouring as much of his traditional knowledge as possible into the teenager. When the grandfather dies in the spring, Jake is left to find his own way back to what is left of civilization.
The internal dialog of both young people is pretty realistic—I remember piecing together memories, just like Izzy does (although about much more innocuous subjects) and I still hear my dad’s voice in the back of my head (“Are you going there without a coat?”), just as Jake hears his grandfather’s advice as he travels.
Although not described in graphic detail, the reader is witness to the first time that Izzy is subjected to Rick’s sexual desires. What I appreciated was that she doesn’t give up hope immediately, nor does she become subservient. She plans for her escape, practices her skills, and looks for opportunities. She is not a passive victim and she doesn’t blame herself—she puts the blame squarely on Rick, where it belongs. A couple of items did annoy me however—Izzy is old enough to be experiencing her menstrual periods, but this is never mentioned. I realize that lack of food might have delayed the onset of her menses, but it seemed to me that they ate well enough during the winter that this should have been an issue (and it looms large in the life of a teen girl). It also seemed to me that a 13 year old would know enough to also be concerned about pregnancy and yet the idea is never broached. These two subjects would have been very much on my mind as a teen and I found the lack to be unrealistic.
The other thing that really bothered me was part of the rescue scene. Izzy and Jake have teamed up by this point, to try to escape from Rick and get back to civilization. In the process, Rick is killed and at exactly the same time, local men arrive. At first they are suspicious, but when they find out who the deceased is, they all say basically, “Oh, it’s him. Yeah, everyone knows what kind of perv he was” and they then take the teens into their care. And I’m thinking, so everyone knew that Rick was molesting girls AND THEY DID NOTHING. That really bothers me, because I’m afraid that sort of reluctance to report goes on far too often.
There are many unanswered questions at the book’s end—what happened to Jake’s dad? What has transpired in Thompson while the teens were gone? Are they returning to a recovering society? It seemed to end a bit abruptly, leaving a lot of hanging threads.