Into The Wild
by Sarah Beth Durst
Jon Krakauer has written a nonfiction book under this title, and it's a good book.
It was made into a movie in 2007, and it tells the story of a well-brought-up young
man who went "back to nature," only to starve to death in the Alaskan bush. I read
it years ago and thought it was an excellent piece of feature journalism. But that's
not this book.
Into the Wild is also the title of the first book in Erin Hunter's Warriors series,
which I have yet to read. It has something to do with a house cat who runs away and
joins a clan of wild cats. That's also not this book.
This book is about a different kind of wilderness. "The wild" here means the world
of folklore and fairy tales, a world with its own rules of nature, its own will,
even a kind of consciousness of its own. Until 500 years ago, "The Wild" compelled
its immortal inhabitants to live out their stories from start to finish; and each
time a story ended, the people in it started over with their memories wiped of
whatever they had learned along the way.
But the characters rebelled. They broke free of their roles and their stories. As
this story begins in a present-day town in Massachusetts, what is left of the wild
is kept under the bed of an ordinary teenage girl named Julie Marchen... ordinary,
that is, except that her brother is a talking, upright-walking cat; her grandmother
is a reformed witch who manages the Wishing Well Motel; and her hairdresser mother
is none other than Rapunzel.
One night, over dinner with the seven dwarfs (an obnoxious lot), Julie loses her
cool and swears that she wishes she had a normal family. If you could hear wishes
backfiring, the sound of this one would make you hit the deck! For the next morning,
Julie wakes up to find her quiet town turned into a disaster area. Somehow, the Wild
has escaped, and it's spreading. It begins ruthlessly gobbling up buildings and
territory and people, and turning them into characters in its endless stories. And
everyone Julie cares about has already vanished into its leafy darkness.
So, ordinary or not, here Julie comes. Mounted on a bicycle, armed with seven-league
boots and a backpack full of magic charms, she plunges into the wild, trying to save
her family. All too soon, she loses everything she brought in with her except her
wits. But even these are put to the test as the narrative rules of fairy lore fight
her at every turn. Loved ones, deprived of their memories, turn into monsters and
traitors. Negotiations with witches, wizards, griffins, and other beasties go oft
awry. Caught up in a story of her own, Julie is at a loss how to escape. Here
deprived of her memory, there put to the test by her own heart's desire, she must
find true heroism within herself to save her family, her town, and her world from
This is more than just an ironic spoof of fairy tales. It is a full-blooded,
warm-hearted, dramatically intense adventure across an entire genre of well-known
stories, stories we may know a bit differently once we see them from the inside out.
If you enjoy behind-the-scenes fantasies about the world of literature and its
characters -- a rapidly developing new genre -- you may also enjoy this book, as I
did. And so you'll be thrilled to note that its sequel, Out of the Wild, is now in
Recommended Age: 12+
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