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by Jamey Bradbury
William Morrow, March 2018
304 pages
ISBN: 0062741993

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

THE WILD INSIDE feels like the perfect story with a perfect protagonist to be set in the wilds of Alaska. It also feels as though it could be set only in Alaska. The first-person narrative, in the slightly uneducated voice of teenager Tracy Petrikoff, is a coming-of-age story with a twist of the supernatural and a large dose of suspense. Debut author Bradbury imbues Tracy with a natural wisdom that she drinks in from the animals in the remote Alaskan wilderness while managing to allow her childlike vulnerability to coexist. Tracy is a typically conflicted adolescent in a highly atypical world.

Tracy has grown up being warned of the dangers presented by strangers in the forest, and she is quick to react when threatened by a man while out running. She is alone when the encounter takes place, and she does not explain what happened even when the nearly dead man emerges from the forest. She is sure, though, that the man, Tom, will be coming back for a backpack of money that she found nearby and which she has appropriated for entrance fees to the Iditarod. Actions based upon her concern about the danger he poses drive the twisty plot forward, especially after Tracy's father takes on an itinerant worker with a suspicious background.

Tracy and Jesse, the new hired hand, circle around each other as Tracy uses what she's learned in the forest to slowly fill in Jesse's backstory. Events spiral out of control even as Tracy believes she has command of the situation, hatching a plot to keep her family safe from Tom. The book is hard to put down, with a fast-paced plot and enough of a supernatural element to make it unclear where the author is heading. In the end, the author does not take the easy route out for Tracy but rather fashions an ending that fits seamlessly with the character she has developed.

The writing is surprisingly accomplished for a debut novel. Bradbury captures equally well the quiet moments of revelation as well as the confused suspense of highly charged events. She moves back and forth in time and from character to character adeptly, transporting the reader into Tracy's head as well as into the wildness that is Alaska. This book is not the start of a series, so it will be fascinating to see what Bradbury has in store for us next time around.

Sharon Mensing, retired educational leader, lives, reads, and enjoys the outdoors in rural Wyoming.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, March 2018

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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