Wolf Hollow

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Title: Wolf Hollow

Author: Lauren Wolk

Rating: Avoid (Inappropriate for Young Readers)

Main Character: Annabelle, 12-year old girl.

Meggie (Rating: Avoid)

I really liked the main character, Annabelle. She stood up for what she thought was right, even if she got hurt badly in the process. She was protective of her younger siblings and the war veteran, Toby, who she knew had done nothing wrong.

I also appreciated the writing, which was poetic and sweet.

However, I didn't like the plot - it was sad and scary, and there was no happy ending. The bullying that Betty indulges in was very scary. Two characters die in the end, and you're left wondering what the point was of Annabelle trying to do the right thing, when her efforts went waste.

Mo (Rating: Inappropriate for children)

This is a beautiful coming of age story. But it is a book for young adults, not children. Many reviewers have compared it to 'To Kill a Mockingbird', but this book reminded me of 'Of Mice and Men' by John Steinbeck. Like that classic, this is also set in the countryside, and has a similar tragic ending.

The story revolves around Annabelle, the 12-year old daughter of a well-to-do farming family. In the beginning of the story, she attempts to deal with a bully in her school, Betty on her own. Meanwhile, she is sympathetic to a homeless war veteran, Toby. At the end of the book, these two strands collide, with multiple characters dying in a tragic ending.

The writing is excellent; consider the passage when Annabelle muses about the bully, Betty:

They didn't look much, those beets. Tough skins clotted with dirt, hairy with fine roots, hard as stones. But inside were fine rubies, eager to be warmed into softness.

I longed for that order of things.

However, there are a few passages of violence in this book, enough to give the hardened adult reader pause, let alone children.

The first is when the bully, Betty, attempts to intimidate Annabelle (successfully) by killing a quail:

I turned at a rasping sound behind me. Betty held the quail out by its neck, its plump body swinging as it fought the noose she'd made with her fingers, its talons curling and stretching, its stubby wings frantically beating the air.

"Betty!", I cried. "Let her go. You're killing her!"

I reached for the quail, and as I did Betty squeezed her hand around its neck and held it high, out of my reach, stepping back and up on the fallen log, a serious look on her face, her eyes on mine, unblinking.

"Let go!" I cried again.

But as I grabbed for the bird, she squeezed her fist all the way shut, crushing her neck. I heard the sound of delicate bones snapping.

The second is when Toby narrates to her his World War I experience, and in some detail, recounts the various ways he has seen death:

And he talked about a baby, just born, its belly still tethered to the womb, and the mother too... beyond which he didn't say much that made any sense, if any of it had.

It takes age and maturity to appreciate what the author is trying to convey here. Not recommended for young readers.