The Wild Girls by Pat Murphy

wildgirlsmurphyThe Wild Girls

 

by Pat Murphy

  • VOYA: 4Q4P J
  • Lexile Level: 630L
  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Puffin; Reprint edition (October 16, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142412457
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142412459

Following her family’s move, Joan is sure that  her life is over.  Not only is she bored out in the country, but she does not know anyone at her new school.  When she explores the woods around her home, however, Joan stumbles upon a very unusual girl.  Twelve-year-old Sarah is nothing like the girls Joan is used to; she spends the long days of summer free from parental control, climbing the trees near her home and acting as queen of her domain.  She calls herself Fox and though she is certainly not the popular kind of girl Joan’s mother would like for her to be interacting with, she is a lot of fun.  The two self-proclaimed Wild Girls grow closer as summer fades into fall, but their friendship is threatened when school begins.  The other kids do not understand Fox at all, and frankly, they have no desire to try.  As Joan wrestles with the choice between her friend and social acceptance, the two unite over a shared love of writing.  Fox’s father, a prolific science-fiction writer, encourages their craft, and a teacher pushes them to submit their stories to a contest.  When the two are accepted to a summer writing program taught by an eccentric artist, the Wild Girls begin to explore the world on a larger scale and start to find a place for themselves.

Joan and Fox are very likable characters, and their love of story telling and writing is infectious.  Fox’s father, the seemingly absent writer, actually is a much better parent in many ways than Joan’s overprotective socially conscious parents.  As their friendship grows, Joan begins to mature and realize that fitting in is not nearly as important as finding someone who understands and accepts you.  The writing program the two engage in is refreshingly bohemian and perfect for the girls as they learn to find their voices.

This is a great story for young writers in particular, and children who have moved in general.  all of the characters are well developed, but the writer Verla Volante and the artisans the girls encounter are notably colorful and delightful.  As someone who usually avoids historical fiction, this tale is an easy foray in the genre.  In truth, the time period (the 70s) does play enough of a role in the narrative for me to categorize the work as historical in nature.

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