Middle Grade Review: Wolf Hollow, by Lauren Wolk
Title: Wolf Hollow
Author: Lauren Wolk
Publisher: Dutton Children's Books, 2016. 291 pages
Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.
Brilliantly crafted, Wolf Hollow is a haunting tale of America at a crossroads and a time when one girl’s resilience, strength, and compassion help to illuminate the darkest corners of our history.
This is definitely a growing-up book. By that I mean, it's a book that doesn't have an easy and happy ending, and not only does the protagonist have to do some growing up, but so does the reader. It's a wonderful book, and leaves one with unanswered questions and some frustrations--much the way Annabelle feels.
The book is not so much about WWII (that's just the time period when it's set) as it is about bullying, justice, and the power of prejudice. In this case, there is a deeply troubled girl who is getting no help with her problems, and the entire community pays the price for that. What Betty does costs everyone in the town a little bit of their humanity, I think, though it also allows a few people to discover some things they didn't know they had. Annabelle especially discovers that she has a courage she never suspected, when she discovers that she has to stand up to a bully to protect those she loves.
I think the heart of the story is summed up in the line (part of the text on the front cover as well as part of the first chapter): "The year I turned twelve, I learned that what I said and what I did mattered. So much, sometimes, that I wasn't sure I wanted such a burden. But I took it anyway, and I carried it as best I could." Ultimately, if any of us learn that much from a book or from life, we've probably done okay.
This is another I will recommend for adults as well as children. The feel of the book is dark enough that I think it isn't suitable for kids younger than 11 or 12, not because of any inappropriate language or actions, but because of the adult decisions that Annabelle ends up making, and the adult consequences they have. It just feels like a book that might be hard for a younger child to take in.
FTC Disclosure: I checked Wolf Hollow out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."