My friend and I read Nicole Helget’s book, The End of the Wild, aloud to each other on a long road trip, driving home from Calgary, Alberta. We both loved it. Although a few reviewers have said, “What? Another dead mother?”, the heaviness of Fern’s grief seems necessary to make Fern’s discoveries about life and the weightiness of her coming-of-age really work. I was expecting the novel to be a full-on rant (metaphorically speaking; I know Helget well enough to know she wouldn’t beat us over the head with her message) against fracking. Instead, she showed us clearly both sides of the issue. She couched both sides, wisely, in two best friends’ perspectives. I am reminded of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s comment in “The Crack-up,”: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” This book does that.

Any book with dogs as a pivotal plot point wrenches my heart, so this book did that quite successfully, and believably. The outcomes of this story weren’t cliche, but instead believable. My friend and I paused at the climax of the story, each trying to predict the final resolutions. We were only partly right, and happily impressed with how Helget worked against easy or predictable solutions.

My only critical question was wondering if Nicole has ever had poison ivy. I’m nearly an expert on getting it (not an expertize I enjoy), and I don’t think blisters ever show up for at least 24-48 hours instead of immediately. Stinging nettles, yes, but poison ivy is far more sinister and slow to appear. I wonder if there’s some other strain of it that I don’t know about.

My last comment here is that I’ve been working on a YA book about fracking for a few years, “Who the Frack is Maddie Jackson.” My protagonist also has a close relationship with a Muslim, and when Nicole came out with this book, the selfish part of me cried, “Wait! She stole my story!” But of course she didn’t, our stories are very different, and now I actually hope readers of this story will look for mine when and if I ever get it published. In the meantime, I can’t help but recommend this entirely. I’m hoping to use it in my Children’s Lit. class this fall, somehow.

Long story short: I LOVED this book! Thanks for writing it, Nicole Helget!

Becky Avatar

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