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Sunday, October 14, 2012

under wildwood

First, a nerdy confession: I love young adult fiction written for twelve year olds.  I used to think I would grow out of it, but the books are just too good to give up.  Here is one of my favorite new series in said genre. 

Under Wildwood is the second book in the Wildwood Chronicles written by Decemberists' Colin Meloy and illustrated by Carson Ellis.  The book takes place in the city of Portland, Oregon, and in the "Impassable Wilderness" within the city.  Children in Portland grow up hearing strange tales of the Impassable Wilderness, about the creepy creatures who live there, and the inability of any one to leave once they have entered the woods.  (The Impassable Wilderness actually exists in Portland, but Portlanders know it as Forest Park and typically do not see talking animals there.)

The heroes of the chronicles, friends Prue McKeel and Curtis Mudrak, have survived their first adventure in Wildwood and have been called to set things right in the middle of a political power vacuum in South Wildwood.  In Under Wildwood, we also meet Curtis' sisters Elsie and Rachel Mudrak and follow their struggles at the Unthank Home for Wayward Youth.  

The story feels like a modern day Chronicles of Narnia series with the talking animals, evil witches, and the convenient coincidence that the main children in the story are the exact people that are needed to set things right in the magical land.   I love fantastical, adventurous stories like this that feel just real enough that you think about double checking the back of your wardrobe, just to make sure it's not a pathway to another world.  

Approaching the end of the book, I started to feel like I was watching the first Lord of the Rings movie waiting for the ring to get thrown in Mt Doom (nerd reference!).  I was on the last chapter thinking "how is this whole story going to get wrapped up in fifteen pages?"  Well, looks like we'll have to wait for the third installment in the Wildwood Chronicles for that (just like I had to wait until the third Lord of the Rings book for the full conclusion to the story).  As long as you know that going in, I think reading Under Wildwood will be very enjoyable for you - or your favorite twelve year old.

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