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The Wild Lands

Review

The Wild Lands

In his second novel, Paul Greci moves from middle grade adventures to YA post-apocalyptic survival story. THE WILD LANDS is a fast-paced novel that will ensure readers are constantly on the edge of their seats.

The signs were there: Environmental collapse. Government strain. But no one anticipated the United States would actually abandon Alaska. Not until the last bus drives away, leaving the remaining people cut off to fend for themselves. Even though his mom wanted to leave, Travis and his family decided to stay. After a fire swept through the land, ravaging it, they chose to stay. But when the fires came back, destroying everything that remained, they are trapped.

Now, with food running out and the people they encounter becoming more and more dangerous, they decide it’s time to try and leave. The question remains: is it too late? With hundreds of miles between them and the hope of civilization, Travis and his sister have to face wild animals, desperate survivors and hazard across a land so dramatically changed from anything they’ve known before. They must decide not just what they believe in, but how far they’re willing to fight for those beliefs in their quest to simply survive.

"Greci does not minimize or shy away from depicting the gritty realism of this post-apocalyptic landscape. The plot is urgent, painting a vivid portrait of this nightmare setting...in a multi-dimensional experience."

From the very beginning, I loved how real this book feels. We are immediately thrown into the story, relying on Travis’s memories to help us understand what happened. These glimpses into history --- both through Travis and the people he encounters --- give us a wide scope of context, helping us understand the horror in which we find Travis and his sister mired in. Relying on these flashbacks also sets the stage for plot twists to be discovered in shocking and unexpected ways, only adding to the urgency of the plot line.

While on the surface THE WILD LANDS may appear to be a novel targeting adolescent boys, the messaging is actually very empowering for girls. We get the narration through the eyes of Travis, but this is far from the hero trope it could be. In fact, the themes of teamwork, choice and free will are incredibly well done. Greci goes further, too, by bringing up outdated gender norms in very realistic ways and allowing us to see Travis confront them while ultimately reaching his own conclusions. This gives the novel an intriguing coming of age feel, because it isn’t just his own identity Travis is grappling with, but the broader scope of humanity.

THE WILD LANDS is an intense novel about survival. It’s perfect for fans of thrillers, dystopians and post-apocalyptic fiction. To be sure, this is a novel meant for a mature YA reader. The violence depicted isn’t graphic in detail, but Greci does not minimize or shy away from depicting the gritty realism of this post-apocalyptic landscape. The plot is urgent, painting a vivid portrait of this nightmare setting, bringing the danger Travis and his sister constantly face to life for the reader in a multi-dimensional experience. Combined with the subjects of forced marriage, many harrowing life-or-death scenarios, hunting and several scenes involving death, readers should be aware of the very difficult content. However, difficult content aside, the depth and scope of the topics addressed is woven fluidly into a believable plot, which allows for discussion of these very relevant topics to be brought up and examined in relatable ways.

By the end of the novel, our journey with Travis and Jess is tied up well enough to be satisfying, but to also offer a real possibility of future books. This is a story with characters that can easily be expanded and I would love to get a glimpse at the rest of the world. THE WILD LANDS is an intense and thrilling ride that will stay with me for a long time.

Reviewed by Jena Brown on January 29, 2019

The Wild Lands
by Paul Greci