Wild Things by Clay Carmichael (Front Street)
Zoe, an eleven-year-old, is afraid a new home with a famous artist/doctor uncle, will just be another"short stay" as has been her life with a shiftless, now dead, mother. But Uncle Henry, a feral stray cat and a mysterious wild boy in the forest gradually turn her life into one of love and trust.
"Wild Things" has all the right story elements for 'tween readers of ten through fifteen; a spirited protagonist, twists and turns in an unpredictable plot and a setting so real the reader can almost taste the cornbread and feel the shadows of the north woods in Carolina.
Carmichael has crafted memorable characters; a famous surgeon whose true passion is metal sculpting, a neighbor making beautiful quilts as her hear 'wears out" and a feckless pastor with sermons carrying the same message week after week. Above all there is an independent young girl who has watched a mother destroy her own life with alcohol.
The coming of age story never glosses over the theme of making ones own choices. Even the school bully (the mayor's son) is a closeted artist, much to the chagrin of his arrogant father.
"Wild Things" is a fresh read --no need to dodge edgy language and sexual innuendos --with a satisfying conclusion. Zoe and her story could certainly invite a sequel, but I hope it doesn't happen. Too often a watered down second story lacks the luster of the first and nothing should take away form the spirit of Zoe and the "wild things' in her life.