Welcome to Book Banter! Two of our librarians read the same YA book and sat down for a discussion on what they thought of it. Did they both like it, love it, or hate it? Would they have changed the ending? Read on for the transcript or watch the video to find out!
AMY: Hi, everyone! I’m Amy.
ALEX: I’m Alex.
AMY: And this is Book Banter, presented by the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County. Alex and I both read Wilder Girls by Rory Power. And, so, Wilder Girls is about a group of girls from Raxter School for Girls. And for the past 18 months, they have been quarantined to the island that their school is on. They’ve been quarantined because of a thing called the Tox. We’re not too sure of how the Tox works, but it’s infecting the students by mutating their bodies. So, not one person is alike. One girl has two spines, one has a scaled hand…two hearts. It affects them each differently. And they don’t really leave the grounds of the school because the Tox has also turned nature wild. This book follows our three main characters. We have Hetty, Byatt, and Reese. And when Byatt goes missing, Hetty and Reese decide to go and find their friend. So Alex and I have both read this story, and we are going to give our thumbs up or thumbs down about this book and then we’re going to discuss it. So, Alex, are you ready?
ALEX: I’m ready!
AMY: Okay, ready? 3…2…1…
ONE THUMB UP AND ONE THUMB MEH!
AMY: Aw, you gave it a thumbs up?!
ALEX: I did!
AMY: I’m kind of…I liked a lot of things about this book, but I also had a few issues with this book as well.
ALEX: Yeah, I was surprised how much I liked it. It’s not typically a genre I lean towards, but there’s a few authors I follow that were just raving about it. And so, like, oh, I’ll give it a try, you know, we’ll see. And I really did end up liking it. I thought that the way that it was written and overall arc of the story was very unique, and, you know…unique in YA. You don’t see it very often, so I did, I really enjoyed it.
AMY: Yeah, because this story is, like, part horror, part science-fiction, but it’s also just about this group of girls. And you’re absolutely right. I have not read a lot of horror in YA, so it’s nice to see it.
ALEX: Mm-hmm. Definitely. What about the characters? Which characters were your favorite or did you not like any of them?
AMY: I liked Reese. I thought Reese was the most interesting character. And I thought Hetty was an interesting main character, but Byatt was hard to like.
ALEX: Yes, yes. I found Byatt semi…mainly…well, more than semi in a way, but I just…I didn’t like how selfish she was. You don’t really learn most of that, or a lot of that, until partway through the book, but I just felt like she had very self-centered motives. Especially when…so the book also has, it’s LGTBQ+, and I just felt like, Reese and Hetty, they’re relationship didn’t…it was very volatile and toxic. They both didn’t really know where the other stood because of Byatt. They didn’t really get together until after Byatt disappears, and I think that’s mainly because Byatt wanted Hetty all to herself or didn’t allow Hetty to explore that with Reese.
AMY: Definitely! And I think that was one of the reasons I gave it an “okay” review because I didn’t…I wanted to see more of their relationships. Especially Hetty and Reese together. You just made it make sense for me because, yeah, Byatt was kind of in the middle. Byatt was stopping that.
ALEX: Yeah. Some other character development I wish I had seen a little bit more of was…or I guess relationship development…was the relationship between Reese and her dad because I thought it was so sweet how much they loved each other or cared for each other. And you can really tell that they did in the flashbacks and glimpses of their relationship that we got. But I wish we had seen a lot more of that. Especially because the juxtaposition between how Byatt’s and Hetty’s relationships are with their families.
AMY: Absolutely. Yeah, it was like the one positive YA parent/child relationship we saw, and we saw it mostly in flashbacks.
ALEX: Or even adult/child relationship, because the administration of the school and stuff.
ALEX: This book is also super-relevant to our current situation, living situation, or world situation with the pandemic being, you know, with quarantine and that. One of the connections, and it’s not really a connection because obviously this book came out before COVID happened, but it’s something I find interesting was the Tox symptoms. Just how broad they are, and there’s not really a rhyme or reason to them. And COVID, you know, there’s a million different symptoms that people could have, or you could be symptom-less. Or it affects you internally like some of the Tox people had the Tox internally but not externally. So I thought that was kind of interesting to kind of make a connection. One of the things I found when I was researching how Rory went about writing the book and how she decided which characters would have which Tox symptom or how they went about that, but she said “that the symptoms to the characters partly based on personality and partly random. Reese, for instance, is a very guarded person so it felt only right to give her actual armor, like scales. But other characters, I used their symptoms as a chance to explore some of the research I did in evolutionary adaptations found in animals.” Byatt’s vocal symptom is based on the pistol shrimp for no other reason than she thought it was really cool.
AMY: That’s really interesting to know!
ALEX: Yeah, I thought that was interesting.
AMY: Yeah, because I don’t know…I know when I was rereading it, I was trying to make connections between everyone and their symptoms or their mutations. And some I just couldn’t see, but what you just said makes sense as far as, like, there is no rhyme or reason sometimes what happens. There doesn’t have to be a definite answer, so I do like that.
ALEX: Yeah, I liked it, too. Anything else that you liked, disliked?
AMY: I was kind of “meh” about the pacing of this book. I thought it was very world-build, information dump, kind of heavy in the beginning, which is fine. But then the ending was just so action-packed and rushed that it was just really different ends of the spectrum. Where I do like those character-building moments, dialogue or storytelling, I felt like we didn’t get to see as much as I would have liked. Or seen even more everyday life, because I feel like this book is very much in a chunk of time period. I think it’s just a couple of days, really, from the beginning of the book to what happens at the end.
ALEX: Yeah, definitely. I agree with that. There wasn’t enough in-between…in the in-between for me. I would have liked to see more flashbacks, maybe of their days before in school and things like that.
AMY: Cue the Lost, you know, beginning! Flashbacks on an island!
ALEX: Yeah! But I read that Rory is an editor for movies and TV shows that are book adaptations. So I kind of got that feel, like you could definitely tell she works in that industry a little bit because it did definitely feel like it read almost like a movie, you know. There’s not a whole lot of beef on the inside. There’s a ton of action in the end. Like you said, a lot of world building, not so much, then a huge action-packed at the end, so I felt like it read definitely like a movie.
AMY: Yeah, definitely the action scenes were playing like a movie in my head. I mean, she’s a great writer. For a debut novel, I thought this was really…it was original. The cover is gorgeous.
ALEX: Love it!
AMY: And I thought it was really interesting. I think it was mentioned that this was going to be the female version of Lord of the Flies, and I do see some similarities in that. But I think it’s just so much more than that description. There’s definitely a connection because it’s a girls’ boarding school on an island, they’re isolated, it’s a survival tale. But it’s different.
ALEX: Yeah, Lord of the Flies was more psych-based. And this was more about the individuals and how they each went about the process.
ALEX: I did like it, though. I enjoyed it. I’m excited to see what else she can…to read her next book that’s coming out, Burn Our Bodies Down.
AMY: Ooo. I’ve seen that cover. It looks pretty good.
ALEX: July 7th is when that comes out.
AMY: Okay! I’ll keep an eye out.
ALEX: So, in searching for fun things to do for this, I found some quizzes that Bookish released for Wilder Girls. So this one is a little quiz that you do about what would be your Tox symptom if you had one. And then it gives you a key after you circle whatever Tox symptom you would be. Mostly As is you grow a second spine on the outside of your body. Mostly Bs is your voice frequency would be damaging and painful. Mostly Cs, one of your eyes would fuse shut. Mostly Ds, your hair would turn silver and glow. Mostly Es, you’d grow a second heart. And mostly Fs, one of your hands would develop scales. So, Amy, what was your Tox symptom?
AMY: I got mostly Cs, so I guess my eye is going to fuse shut. Which I’m really weird about stuff so I’m not too thrilled about that!
ALEX: Yeah! My eyes, one of my eyes, would be fusing shut, also. I also got mostly Cs, but I was really hoping for the silver, glowing hair because anything that glows is pretty fabulous to me! So that’s what I was hoping for, but I didn’t get it. And then the second one was, Would You Survive the Tox? And it gives you answers and they branch out depending on what you choose. The three outcomes are: You Made It, You’re a True Wilder Girl; You Didn’t Survive, the Tox Took Over; and Your Companions Killed You Before the Tox Did. So I am a true Wilder Girl, surprisingly. I don’t know how that happened because I really don’t think I would survive this. What did you get?
AMY: You survived? I would get killed by one of my companions, unfortunately. I did not survive!
ALEX: Oh, Amy! That makes me sad.
AMY: It is very sad! So you can read Wilder Girls through Overdrive or Hoopla through our library. Let us know when you take the quiz what your answers are.
ALEX: Yeah, we’d love to hear!
AMY: Thank you so much, Alex, for joining me for Book Banter! We will see you next week with our new selection. And, yeah, Wilder Girls was an interesting read but a good read.
ALEX: Yes, definitely!
Hello everyone! I’m Amy and I am a Youth Services Librarian at the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County. When I’m not trying to reach my reading goal for the year, yes its 100 books, and yes I’m far ahead of that goal at the pace I’m going, I like to talk about what I’m reading to the 3 book clubs I am involved in. You could say I am a little obsessed with reading Young Adult books. I enjoy most genres, but my favorites include: Westerns (looking for a good YA Western… I’m your librarian), Historical Fiction, Contemporary, Fantasy, Dystopian, and Mystery. I am always looking for the next great book that makes me connect to its characters and hits me in the feels.
Alex Harper is the Assistant Supervisor and Youth Services Team Leader for the Newport Unit of PLYMC.
She loves working with Tweens and Teens and providing school outreach. She runs Project LIT Youngstown, PLYMC’s chapter of Project LIT Community, a national grassroots literacy movement. Alex wholeheartedly believes that books have the power to change the trajectory of one’s life and is committed to ensuring that all young people can find a book that represents their unique story.
When not working, she can be found making things out of yarn, eating ice cream, or taking a nap.