Ten teens are left alone in the wilderness during a three-day survival test in this multi-authored novel led by award-winning author Shaun David Hutchinson.
At Zeppelin Bend, an outdoor-education program designed to teach troubled youth the value of hard work, cooperation, and compassion, ten teens are left alone in the wild. The teens are a diverse group who come from all walks of life, and were all sent to Zeppelin Bend as a last chance to get them to turn their lives around. They’ve just spent nearly two weeks hiking, working, learning to survive in the wilderness, and now their instructors have dropped them off eighteen miles from camp with no food, no water, and only their packs, and they’ll have to struggle to overcome their vast differences if they hope to survive.
Inspired by The Canterbury Tales, the characters in Feral Youth, each complex and damaged in their own ways, are enticed to tell a story (or two) with the promise of a cash prize. The stories range from noir-inspired revenge tales to mythological stories of fierce heroines and angry gods. And while few of the stories are claimed to be based in truth, they ultimately reveal more about the teller than the truth ever could.
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Shaun David Hutchinson is the author of The Deathday Letter, fml, The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley, We Are the Ants, and At the Edge of the Universe.
Other contributing authors include Suzanne Young, Marieke Nijkamp, Robin Talley, Stephanie Kuehn, E.C. Myers, Tim Floreen, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Justina Ireland, and Brandy Colbert.
Read an Excerpt
Feral Youth “THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT”
by Marieke Nijkamp
I WONDER IF FLAMES are fractals, too. The fire is hardly symmetrical, of course, but I could stare at the individual flames forever. They burn bright yellow and orange and red before succumbing to thick black smoke. They dance across the smoldering hood of the car. Given time, I could find patterns in them.
Or perhaps I would just find chaos. But chaos is enough.
I wrap my arms around my chest when sirens tear through the night. A few feet away, Adam holds Mom’s hand. Even though he stands her height these days, he looks young in his Transformers pajamas, frail in the fire’s glow. On the other side of the street, Dad is talking to Grandpa. Trying to calm him down, most likely, but it doesn’t seem to be working. He waves his hands and shouts something inaudible.
It’s weird. I always envisioned car fires to be violent and explosive, but perhaps that’s just Netflix and the movies. Grandpa’s car burns hot enough to warm the neighborhood and bright enough to light up the dark. It’s a steady roar.
It’s almost calming to listen to.
* * *
I can hear you think: What is the matter with you, Jenna? Are you a pyromaniac? Let me put the record straight: Pyromania is an impulse control disorder, and I can control my impulses quite well, thank you very much. I’m not doing this for attention or to relieve tension or because the fire gives me gratification. It gives me satisfaction, sure, but that’s not quite the same thing. Car bad. Fire pretty.
No, it’s chaos. Fractals.
And I am fractured, too.
* * *
Broken. I first noticed it in precalc, of all places. My favorite class, bar none. What can I tell you? I’m a card-carrying nerd. And with a name like mine, there is no escaping the pull of math. After all, as my esteemed not-ancestor Georg Cantor once said, “The essence of mathematics lies entirely in its freedom.”
I wish I could tell him how much I long for that freedom, that entire essence.
Because it didn’t start in precalc. Of course it didn’t. It started long ago. But I always felt like I would mend the wounds and set the breaks and pretend like nothing was going on.
That day, today, for the first time, I can’t anymore. I can’t pretend class is normal and I’m normal. I’ve reached a breaking point. Perhaps I’ve already passed too many breaking points without noticing.
From the moment I settle into my spot in the back corner of the room, I try to focus on Mrs. Rodriguez’s lesson, but nothing that she says reaches me. Something about solving more complex equations than we’ve done so far, but she may as well have been speaking German. I’m not used to this. I coast through other classes, sure. I have everything I need: solid test scores, college plans, a middle-class suburban white family with money.
But with precalc, I want to care.
I doodle around the edges of my notebook; endless—familiar—geometrical shapes. The repetition is some kind of comfortable at least.
I blink and look next to me. Zoe is frowning at me, worry in her brown eyes. “Are you okay? I’ve whisper-called you five times at least.”
I don’t know what to say because just like with Mrs. Rodriguez’s explanations, Zoe’s words don’t quite reach me. And after a moment, her frown grows deeper. “Jenna, are you okay? Do you want to go see the nurse?”
In front of us, Kamal turns and glances at me too.
I force myself to grimace. “Sorry; tired. Must’ve had bad dreams or something.”
Though if I’m honest, I don’t remember the last time I slept long enough to have dreams at all. Sleeping means letting my guard down, and I’m exhausted down to my bones.
“Sucks.” Zoe reaches out to place a hand on my arm, and I flinch. I don’t want to. It’s Zoe. But I do.
“Just distract me, please? Maybe that’ll help.” Maybe Z. and I can still be normal even when everything else is shattering and slowly drifting out of reach.
“We’ll go to the Coffee House after school. Get you a mocha with extra whip and an extra shot of espresso and one of those lava muffins. There’s nothing extraordinary amounts of caffeine and sugar can’t fix.”
I roll my eyes, but my shoulders unclench a bit. Coffee with chocolate is Zoe’s answer to everything. She doesn’t need the caffeine; she has enough energy for the two of us—and most likely for half a dozen people more—even with swimming and volleyball. Her schedule is superhuman, and I don’t know how she manages it all when I can barely keep my studies going.
But coffee with chocolate is comfort. And I give her a small nod.
Z. flicks a strand of light brown hair out of her face. “And in the interest of distraction . . .” She slides her notes over to my table. “Help me, please, oh math genius?”
I accept the piece of paper, but my stomach drops.
Math has always come naturally to me. I once told Dad it’s my second language—the universal language. He would much rather I learn German, but I’m fluent in formulas, and I think in theorems. I sleep, dream, breathe math.
I stare at the equation. I recognize Z.’s handwriting—entirely consistent, all small round letters and numbers—but I have no idea what she just put in front of me.
Next to me, Z. does that puppy-eyes thing she’s so good at. “I know you think cheating in math is a mortal sin, but I really don’t know. And Coach told me to do something about my grades, or she won’t include me in the starting lineup.”
She graces me with a smile, and her smile always makes my lips twitch up in return. Today I feel this shatter too. It hurts. Her happiness makes my blood boil. It’s not fair. I don’t want to lose this too. I don’t know what she’s asking of me, I don’t know how to give it to her, I don’t know how I let it get this far, I don’t know how to go on like nothing is wrong. This is the break.
I push the piece of paper back at her with too much force. It slides across her table and flutters to the floor.
“You should do your own work,” I snap, loud enough for the entire class to hear.
Everyone—and everything—around me falls silent. At the front of the class, Mrs. Rodriguez pauses midlecture and turns around.
And Zoe’s smile has melted off her face. She’s grown deadly pale. “Jenna . . .”
I drop my books into my bag and get to my feet, knocking over my chair. I don’t bother to pick it up. I don’t bother to mend this. I can’t.
* * *
Mom always said my temper was flammable, easily combustible. I get that from her. As a kid it was triggered by the simplest things—not getting what I wanted, a broken toy, my brother. But I thought I had it under control. It’s one more thing that’s unraveling.
I avoid Zoe for the rest of the day. I leave school before homeroom and take a detour on my walk home.
Back when I was little, I used to take my anger out on a punching bag in the basement, but that’s not an option. I don’t want to go home. Out of all the places where I want to be and all the places where I want to go, I don’t want to go home.
I walk north instead, to an old office building that’s been empty for years. Zoe and I sneaked in dozens of times. It’s safe enough, as long as you keep to yourself. It’s an excellent place for sharing food or sharing secrets or for simply being alone. And alone is what I need right now.
I edge around the large fences that are set up haphazardly around the building. I don’t think the owners or the city care anymore that people are coming here. There’s no construction hazard, and at least the building is being put to some use. There are too many empty office buildings around here to begin with.
Slipping in through one of the broken windows, I make my way to the staircase on the ground floor and walk until I’ve reached the fourteenth floor. Being insensible is a blessing, sometimes. I don’t care about the burning in my legs or the ache in my lungs—I’m not athletic like Zoe is. I don’t care about Zoe—I only care about moving.
The door to the roof used to be locked, but someone broke the lock months ago, and the roof has turned into a popular nightspot. Now, midway through the afternoon, there’s no one here but the wind and me. The wind howls and whips my long blond hair around my face. It’s not particularly cold, but the chill gets into my bones regardless.
I sit down near the edge of the building and prop my elbows on my knees. I stare into the distance, focus on nothing in particular. The building isn’t tall, but it’s high enough to see the outline of the Twin Cities in the distance. It’s high enough to turn the people down below into small figurines. And it’s high enough to feel removed from the world.
I could stay up here forever and not come down. I could stay here, at least, until my parents listened to me. But they won’t, and I won’t. I’m a good girl who gets home on time for dinner because otherwise, what would the neighbors think.
* * *
I told you I first noticed the fractures that day. I first noticed the fire that day too. It was a discarded lighter, on the edge of the roof next to me. A cheap thing. Yellowed plastic. Covered in dust. A faded symbol of some sort.
I don’t even know what drew me to pick it up, but I did. I do.
I roll the spark wheel carefully. It feels rusty, as if it hasn’t been used for a while. Who knows when someone dropped it there? Judging by what else can be found on the corners of this roof—weed bags, condom wrappers—it’s not like anyone actually comes and cleans here.
Turning the spark wheel doesn’t do anything, not at first, and I’m tempted to just toss the thing. It’s not like I ever used a lighter before. No one at home smokes, and Mom would kill me if I ever started. It may just be empty. But some stubbornness takes over, and I keep rolling the wheel, faster and faster, until it’s almost a snap.
When the spark turns into a flame.
It’s a tiny thing, blue with yellow edges. It doesn’t look like it’s particularly hot. But when I shield it with my hand, against the wind that dances around us, it gently sways along.
I stare at the flame until the palm of my hand turns red. I stare until the spark wheel becomes hot enough to burn my fingers.
And for the first time in a long time, I remember what it’s like to hurt.
It was never meant to be like this. I was never meant to be here, on this rooftop, in this place, in this upside-down world. But the fire reminds me I can still feel, at least.
* * *
When I come home, Adam’s in the kitchen, scarfing down a cup of yogurt. He rocks back and forth on the balls of his feet. “I’m going out to study with T. J. Mom and Dad are at the Williamsons’ tonight for that neighborhood watch thing.”
I grab an apple from the bowl on top of the bar and toss it up into the air before catching it. “ ’S fine. I’ll eat leftovers again.”
I don’t mean for my words to sound bitter, but somehow they do.
Adam half turns to stare at me, his eyebrows arched in a perfect copy of Mom’s. He inherited Dad’s unruly hair and green eyes, but he has Mom’s expressional eyebrows, and he has all her expressions down to a T. I don’t look like either of them—apparently, I got my looks from Dad’s younger sister. If you put my childhood photo next to Aunt Beate’s, we could be twins. She lives halfway across the country, so we don’t see her often, but our likeness always makes Dad smile when I bring it up.
I shrug and take a bite from the apple. “Or I may order a pizza.”
Adam grins. To his twelve-year-old mind, ordering a pizza is the epitome of adulthood. We used to order massive pepperoni pizzas together, when Dad was working late and Mom was off at some PTA thing or other, but when you’re twelve, hanging out with your friends—even when they live next door—is infinitely cooler than spending time at home with your nerdy older sister. I don’t blame him.
He dumps his spoon in the dishwasher and grabs his bag. “Save me a slice, okay? Also”—he raises his voice—“Grandpa is home tonight, so you won’t be alone.”
“I am!” Grandpa’s voice comes from the basement, where he’s working on restoring and repainting his collection of old toy cars.
The chunk of apple sours in my mouth. Adam pulls the door shut, and the kitchen seems to close in on itself around me.
* * *
So I hide. In my own home. In my own room. I hide in daylight.
Zoe’s texted me a few times, but I haven’t opened any of them. I’ve tossed my phone onto my bed. I don’t know what to tell her. Come over. I’m sorry. Help me. Please don’t leave me on my own. But she would ask to understand, and that is a problem. She would ask me to share secrets I cannot, do not, ever think I can share.
After all, I tried to share them once and no one listened. I tried to share them twice and no one listened. I cannot do it a third time. Besides, I can’t silence that small voice in the back of my mind that wonders: Am I not to blame? I didn’t stop it. I let it get this far.
It’s far easier to let myself go numb.
At the end of the day, all I have left is a house that doesn’t feel like a home anymore either. A body that doesn’t feel like my body anymore. A self that doesn’t feel like myself anymore.
* * *
I am fractured.
I’m not a good person. I don’t try hard enough. I get angry easily. I fight with my brother even when I don’t want to and ignore my friends even when I shouldn’t.
But I don’t think I deserve this.
* * *
According to chaos theory, the present determines the future, but the approximate present does not approximately determine the future. One small deviation can change the entire future. That’s known as the butterfly effect. The idea that one flap of a butterfly’s wings would be enough to alter the course of the weather forever. Or that traveling back in time and stepping on one butterfly can change the history of the human race.
The idea that one time, a girl was a solid B student who could take pride in her geeky accomplishments, who could laugh and feel her stomach flutter and her heart race, who mattered. Until all that changed and kept changing. Small causes have large effects.
* * *
It was raining outside. That was what I remember most clearly. It was the last week of freshman year, and it was hot and humid and raining. The type of rain that clings to you, all dust and warm water.
Zoe walked me home before she had to go to volleyball practice, and I was soaked through by the time I walked through the front door. I was itching to change into something dry and cool. But when I went to drop my backpack in the living room, I found Dad sitting on the couch.
I froze in the doorway, sure that something had happened. As a general manager at an insurance company, he worked long days, and we rarely saw him between dawn and dusk. He seemed out of place here. He’d left his jacket over the armrest, and he’d loosened his tie. His normally flawless hair was sticking up, as if he’d run his hand through it several times.
I don’t think he saw or heard me, at first. “Jenna?”
I let my soggy backpack slip off my shoulder and onto the hardwood floor. It immediately created a puddle of water around it. On any other day, Dad would not have let that go unmentioned—Mom hates the stains—but right there and then, he didn’t even blink.
My heart leaped into my throat, and I tried desperately to find my voice. “Dad, what’s wrong?”
“Jenna?” It took a long time for him to focus on me, longer to find the right words. But eventually they came. “Grandpa just called. We knew it might happen but . . . After everything he went through with the store, the bank is going to foreclose his home, too. He’s lost everything. He’s— Aunt Beate can’t take him in, so he is going to come live with us for a while.”
* * *
Grandpa arrived a week later, in his beat-up old car, with nothing but a large suitcase full of clothes, a baseball glove and baseball for Adam, a large photo album for Dad, and an old abacus from the store for me.
I liked him. He looked younger than I expected. He had an easy smile and a sharp sense of humor. He made Adam and me laugh throughout dinner.
That first weekend, he sat up with me and let me talk endlessly about math and chaos and fractals, everything that even Dad had grown tired of.
He took Adam to his games and took him out for milk shakes after while he told him stories about his endless road trips, first with Grandma, then alone. He loved his car as much as Mom hated the look of it.
The truth is, I didn’t want him to come because although we live comfortably, our house isn’t big enough to fit five. Some days it’s barely big enough for four. And yet he fit in. Easily and without hesitation. He became a part of us.
* * *
I didn’t have to murder a butterfly.
I didn’t realize anything had changed until it was too late.
* * *
I slip into my bedroom and sag down against the door. I grab an old matchbox from my stack of collectibles, and I turn it around and around and around between my fingers.
I started collecting matchboxes when I was eight because matches are great for re-creating geometrical shapes. When my parents discovered what I was up to, they started bringing home matchboxes from every vintage store and every hotel where they could find them.
I switched to LEGOs, eventually, and virtual building materials. I discovered formulas and coding.
But I always kept the matches, and my parents kept up the tradition. They didn’t know, but they gave me enough matches to burn down the world.
Still, I never lit matches before today, and doing so isn’t as easy as I thought it would be.
The first match snaps and splinters.
The head of the second crumbles.
The third match lights up, and I’m so shocked I immediately drop it. It sears my jeans and extinguishes.
The fourth burns all the way down, scorching my fingertips.
I push the fifth against the tender skin of my forearm.
Then the sixth. And the seventh.
The flames are mesmerizing, and I can feel the pain.
I can feel.
I make my way through the entire matchbox, until the small blotches on my arm itch and ache and my room smells of sulfur. Until the twilight outside gives way to night and the shadows creep in.
I tried to lock the door, but the shadows always creep in.
* * *
The world burns from the inside out. You don’t see it until it’s too late.
Reading Group Guide
A Reading Group Guide to
By Shaun David Hutchinson and nine other powerhouse authors
About the Book
In the Wyoming wilderness, a diverse group of ten deeply troubled teens navigate their way back to their base camp at Zeppelin Bend, a three-day journey that tests much more than their survival skills. As power struggles develop, alliances form and relationships loosely take hold. To pass the time, they are invited to a storytelling competition, taking turns sharing stories that blur the lines between reality and fiction.
Shaun David Hutchinson and nine other notable authors weave together the lives of these emotionally complex characters who have become isolated from the world, vulnerable to both the elements and to the wilderness inside themselves. The tales they tell give a range of insights and interpretations of rules we must follow to survive in society, but it is really a survival of the spirit that drives them to continue. Each storyteller gives voice to issues and themes that are relatable to contemporary youth, heartbreaking struggles marked by attitudes and behaviors that cause far-reaching suffering and destruction. Can an entire society be witnessed in a cross section of troubled teens?
1. Gio’s first person narrative as an observer affects how we experience other characters and events. Did you find his voice reliable? Which narrative features were used by the authors to make Feral Youth relatable to young adults?
2. How did Feral Youth affect you? Which character did you feel most strongly about? Which aspects of their stories were most relatable? Which aspects were most engaging? Most disturbing? Most morally corrupt? Most heartbreaking? Discuss.
3. With which of the storytellers did you most identify? For what reasons, and in what ways? What effect did the character(s) have on others in the group? What effect did the character(s) have on you?
4. Does the title Feral Youth aptly describe the main characters? Is it appropriate to their circumstances? What alternate title might you choose?
5. When Cody wonders why Gio was sent to the Bend, Gio responds, “‘Aren’t we all here for the same reason?’” What do you think Gio means by this?
6. Overarching themes thread through each of the stories, including injustice, vengeance, retribution, and social confusion. What are some of the other themes, issues, and concerns addressed in the novel?
7. Gio believes, “The courts and our parents or guardians had sent us to the Bend hoping it would change us, but I didn’t think that was possible. The things that made us strong individually were also the qualities that kept us from functioning as a unified whole.” What are some of the qualities Gio is referring to? Discuss.
8. Each protagonist solved his or her dilemma in a different way with significant consequences and effects. What do you think of their coping strategies? What is your opinion of the solutions they chose? Which character made the most understandable choice? Who was most comprised by their decisions and actions? Do you think their revenge was justified? Can revenge ever restore justice? Choose one or two stories and discuss how you would have solved the dilemmas.
9. What roles do adults play in the lives of these characters? Are the adults portrayed realistically? Have you had similar experiences with the adults in your life? Choose one or two characters and discuss how they might improve their situation with the adults in their lives.
10. How does an awareness of social class impact the decisions and actions of the teens in the wilderness? To what extent does social status play a role in the stories they tell? How do their stories reshape or challenge other characters’ perceptions of class and status?
11. What makes you feel respected and valued? How could you work to cultivate at least one trusted relationship with a responsible friend and/or family member?
12. Several stories feature or refer to the supernatural. Do you believe in paranormal activity? Why or why not? Have you ever sensed or seen a presence you couldn’t explain? Do you believe in ghosts? Human monsters? Demons? Aliens? Do you think the storytellers themselves believe in them? Which of the tellers do you think believed their stories to be true, and which do you think were simply providing entertainment?
13. Gio tells us, “That’s why I like stories. They usually wind up revealing more about a person than what they’d tell you about themselves. It’s not that they lie intentionally . . . if you listen hard enough, there’s more truth in fiction.” Do you agree or disagree with Gio? What do we reveal about ourselves in the stories we tell? In what ways?
14. What effect does the setting have on the campers? In what circumstances does the setting reflect the mood? Which specific circumstances within the natural environment become a metaphor for their struggles?
15. Some aspect of religious belief is apparent in each story. Discuss the influence of faith upon each of the storytellers. Which of the characters have faith in themselves?
16. How important is the idea of mutual trust? Were the teens in the wilderness responsible for one another? Were the characters in their stories responsible for one another? How responsible do you think we should be for one another? What rules do you live by? What is an individual’s responsibility to society?
17. The protagonists and many of the characters in their stories made regrettable judgments and assumptions. How did these choices affect them? What effect did they have on others? On circumstances?
18. Do aspects of this novel remind you of any other books, stories, poems, songs, or films? In what ways? Explain the connection.
19. After hearing these stories, what patterns and cause-and-effect relationships did you notice? Specifically, which personal characteristics, actions, and reactions allowed for or prevented personal redemption?
20. Were you satisfied with the ending? Yes, or no? Would you have chosen a different ending for the book?
21. How do you think the ten major characters will manage after they leave the Bend? Gio didn’t believe any of the alliances formed during their three days together would continue, that they would “slip the knot as soon as we were able, and fall to loose ends.” Do you agree with Gio? What will it take for them to find their own paths to emotional and psychological well-being?
22. What might the teens have learned from the circumstances that led them to Zeppelin Bend? What might they have learned from their experiences together at the Bend? What might they have learned from one another’s stories? Discuss.
23. Has your reading of Feral Youth affected your ability or desire to observe the people and the world around you in different ways? Discuss.
Beyond the Book: Extension Activities
1. Perception and perspective play important roles in the development of our personal and social identities. What types of things do you often notice that others do not? Are they tangible or intangible? Visible or invisible? Are they clear-cut or indistinct? Describe what you notice in the form of a paragraph, a short story, a poem, a song, a drawing, or whatever you feel most inspired to create.
2. Write a letter to one of the storytellers or one of the characters in their stories. What would you say to him or her? What encouragement would you give? What would you reveal about yourself? What would you tell the adults in his or her life?
3. Describe or imagine a place where you feel comfortable, safe, respected, empowered, inspired, and loved, a place where you can be your authentic self. Carefully observe your surroundings and make note of what you see, hear, touch, and smell. When and why do you visit this place? Are you there alone, or is someone with you? If so, who? Be as specific as you can with sensory details. Spend at least twenty minutes in this healing place without talking, writing, or texting, experiencing how it feels. Note how your thoughts, perceptions, reflections, and memories change when you are surrounded by well-being.
4. Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales have provided inspiration for the framework of Shaun David Hutchinson’s novel. Explore the fascinating world of late medieval fourteenth-century England through one of the many lively translations of the tales, such as Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, retold and illustrated by Marcia Williams. Compare the two works of literature. Though very different in tone, Feral Youth and The Canterbury Tales both suggest storytelling competitions based on human behavior, social class, and moral dilemmas that are still relevant today.
5. Some believe life experience is determined by things that are impossible to predict or control, speaking in terms of chaos and fractals. Investigate this theory and what it might mean for the choices we make in our lives. There are many websites showcasing the most basic to the most currently advanced research of Chaos Theory. A helpful place to begin your research is: fractalfoundation.org/resources/what-is-chaos-theory/
This guide was prepared in 2017 by Judith Clifton, M.Ed, MS, Educational Consultant, Chatham, MA.
This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This wasn’t exactly the novel I was hoping it would be. The side stories by the different authors were nothing to scream about, I didn’t think, but the main story about the ten delinquents left out in the woods for three days was what, had my attention. I wanted more of this story, I wanted to know what became of them, I just wished the book contained more of their journey. They had spent three weeks preparing for their three-day stint in the woods. The ten teenagers each have their own reasons for being a part of this outreach program, some more severe than others. Blindfolded on their drive in, the teens are dropped off in the woods and are given three days to reach their destination. In a perfect world, the teens would have used teamwork, cooperation, and survival skills to make it to the end but this is not a perfect world and we see that, the minute the van drives away. They were teens, they had egos and some immediately formed groups. Some just wanted to make it to the pick-up point and some just didn’t care. They had three days, just three days but to them, it was a lifetime. Gio, the individual telling the story brought up the idea of the teens telling original stories after the teens started to argue about water. Yeah, some thought the idea was stupid until Gio offered up a hundred dollars for the story that he thought was the best. That shut them up and soon the stories began. Each of the stories were different, there was no central theme running throughout them. There was a bit of truth in a few of the stories, it just depended upon the individual who was speaking. Gio was right, it did keep them busy, their minds were occupied and they couldn’t wait to hear what someone else had to say. I liked reading about the teens adventure. I found it interesting as a group how they tried to tackle this assignment. There was an injury along the way and seeing how the characters handled that situation said a lot for that character. People talk the talk but until you walk the walk, you never really know. They were all individual others thought (and a few of these teens thought) were delinquents, but were they really? I didn’t care for the stories that the teens told as they walked. I thought they were simple and juvenile. I kept hoping as I read that that next one would be better so I could pick the winner.
4.5 Stars I love anthologies and retellings so this was a perfect combination for me. The narration is fantastic – dark, humorous, honest. The transitions between stories are great, and I really liked the different character dynamics we get to see. Feral Youth follows 10 troubled teens who are left alone in the woods and must make it back to their camp. To pass the time, they decide to tell stories, and what we get is engaging POV stories from different authors reflecting the different characters. Feral Youth is a story within a story - we see into these characters lives, and see their truths, or what they present as their truths, and we see their growth. It’s such a unique and fun reading experience! Things I Liked I loved the narration and Gio as the narrator. It was blunt, honest, and biting. I loved the candor Gio spoke with and the humor we got from all the characters interacting. There were many stubborn personalities, and their clashing provided excellent entertainment. I love that Gio presents himself as truthful, but he is still an unreliable narrator. I also thought the transitions between the character stories and the narration was done very well. The lead-ins to the character stories flowed naturally from the situation or from character’s conversation, when they easily could have been clunky or abrupt. The character’s stories themselves were fantastic! I loved that we got a mix of personal/biographical stories and ones that were fiction. It was a nice balance, and even the non-biographical stories were personal to the characters and showed more about them. I like how Gio says that stories aren’t about truthfulness, but about the belief and intent of the storyteller. It becomes their truth, and thereby the truth. I liked seeing the character growth through the 3 day trek through the woods. We see the characters learn more about themselves. We see them examine how they are viewed by society and others, what expectations are placed on them, how people interact with them and how they interact with the world around them. All the characters learn something that impacts them. Favorite stories: “Jackie’s Story” by Justina Ireland & “Self-Portrait” by Brandy Colbert Things I Didn’t Like I don’t even think you can call them chapters really, but the sections sometimes felt a little long, and I found myself taking breaks in the middle of a story. So I wasn’t as invested as I would have liked to have been during parts. This is purely a personal preference, as I tend to prefer shorter chapters and sections in books. And as this majorly focuses on characters, I feel like being invested is needed for me as a reader. Least favorite story: “Big Brother, Part 1” by E.C. Myers (I did like Part 2!) Feral Youth is a love story to the downtrodden, misguided misunderstood, and disrespected. We see these characters, who for some reason or another, are shunned as “troubled” and “bad” by those around them. This is their story and their and their truths. This is a band of misfits coming together and embracing themselves and their experiences. I loved basically everything about the story and I will definitely be reading more from all of these authors in the future! Trigger Warnings: self harm (“The Butterfly Effect”), rape (“The Chaos Effect”) I received a copy of the book from Simon Pulse via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.