Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Haunting Tale for Teens: Into That Forest by Louis Nowra

Premise: When six-year-old Hannah and her friend Becky find themselves alone in the wilderness, they are adopted by a mated pair of Tasmanian Tigers. While living with the tigers, they begin to lose their language, clothing, and other indicators of humanity. But what happens when they are forced to rejoin civilization?

Title: Into That Forest
Author: Louis Nowra
Length: 118 pages
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Content appropriate for: Grades 9-12
Format: Digital ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley

Three adjectives that describe this book: gritty, gripping, tragic

This book had been getting rave reviews so I was really excited to get my hands on it. The concept of children raised in the wild fascinates me. This book, in it's no-frills style really hones in on the question of what makes us human. What is the difference between animals and humans? How separate is humanity from the natural world? And how separate should we be?

Into That Forest is an intriguing tale. The first half, in which Hannah and Becky lose their "humanity" and embrace the ways of tigers, was captivating. As the girls stopped speaking, wearing clothes, and walking on all fours, the differences between the human world and the animal kingdom were striking. And yet, the similarities tugged at me as well - this den of two tigers and two girls is a family. They work together to survive. They care for one another. This section of the book was stunning.

And then the girls are discovered by two adult humans and taken away from their tiger family and their wild home. This half of the book was much less captivating. The "civilized" humans were incredibly one-dimensional, making their motivations difficult to decipher and their actions even more confounding.

I wish Nowra had extended the "wild" portion of the tale. I couldn't stop reading about the Tasmanian Tigers and the rampant bounty hunting that led to their extinction. These animals and life in that Tasmanian bush fascinated me.

A note about appropriateness -
Although this book looks like a children's book and is published by Amazon Childrens, there is so much foul language and even one near-rape, that it should be reserved for high school students and older.
3.5 stars

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