Wild Bird

Wild Bird

by Wendelin Van Draanen


$16.19 $17.99 Save 10% Current price is $16.19, Original price is $17.99. You Save 10%.
View All Available Formats & Editions
Eligible for FREE SHIPPING
  • Want it by Wednesday, October 24?   Order by 12:00 PM Eastern and choose Expedited Shipping at checkout.
    Same Day shipping in Manhattan. 
    See Details


Wild Bird by Wendelin Van Draanen

From the award-winning author of The Running Dream and Flipped comes a remarkable portrait of a girl who has hit rock bottom but begins a climb back to herself at a wilderness survival camp.

3:47 a.m. That’s when they come for Wren Clemmens. She’s hustled out of her house and into a waiting car, then a plane, and then taken on a forced march into the desert. This is what happens to kids who’ve gone so far off the rails, their parents don’t know what to do with them anymore. This is wilderness therapy camp. Eight weeks of survivalist camping in the desert. Eight weeks to turn your life around. Yeah, right.
The Wren who arrives in the Utah desert is angry and bitter, and blaming everyone but herself. But angry can’t put up a tent. And bitter won’t start a fire. Wren’s going to have to admit she needs help if she’s going to survive.

"I read Wild Bird in one long, mesmerized gulp. Wren will break your heart—and then mend it." —Nancy Werlin, National Book Award finalist for The Rules of Survival

"Van Draanen’s Wren is real and relatable, and readers will root for her." —VOYA, starred review

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101940440
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 09/05/2017
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 56,463
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.20(d)
Lexile: HL680L (what's this?)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Wendelin Van Draanen is the author of many beloved and award-winning books. For middle graders, she’s written The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones, Swear to Howdy, and the Sammy Keyes mystery series. For teens and tweens, there’s Flipped, The Running Dream, Confessions of a Serial Kisser, and Runaway. And for younger readers, check out the Shredderman quartet and the Gecko and Sticky series. Wendelin Van Draanen lives in central California with her husband and two sons. Find her on the web at WendelinVanDraanen.com or on Twitter at @WendelinVanD.

Read an Excerpt


“Wren . . .”

My name is floating around me. Bouncing on the clouds in my mind.

“Wren . . . wake up, Wren.”

Everything’s cocoony. Drifty. The clouds are so soft.

“Wren, come on. It’s time to go.”

Go? Go where? Who said that? I don’t recognize his voice. I look around my cloud, but it’s dark. Like a storm is coming.

Then thunder begins to roll. “Wren!”

I pull in, hunker down. Why is he on my cloud? “Go away,” I mumble through the rocks in my mouth. I need a drink. Maybe if I licked the cloud . . .

“She’s totally wasted, Mom.”

Wait. That was Anabella. What’s she doing on my cloud?

She was definitely not invited.

The narc.

I can’t see her either, though. And now the cloud is rocking. Rocking and spinning.

“Go back to bed,” my mother whispers.

My mother? No! Not her, too!

A new voice struggles into the darkness. A small, sleepy voice. “What’s going on?”

It’s Mo! My little buddy, my Mowgli, my Mo-bro! He can be on my cloud. Anytime! But . . . no . . . wait. First I have to hide some things. Quick. I need to hide some things.

“Take Morris and get back to bed!” my mother hisses.

“I can’t believe you’re doing this,” Anabella says.

“Take your brother and go!” my father commands.

My father?

Why am I even on this cloud? It’s so crowded now. And dark. And rolling with thunder.

“Wren! Wake up!”

Who is that?

Light stabs my eyes as I peel them open. A man comes into focus. He’s large. Standing over me. Wearing dark blue. With gold-embroidered shoulder patches.

A . . . a cop?

I sit up a little.

Yes, a cop.

He starts swaying. But . . . no, it’s not him swaying. It’s me. Or my bed. I grab for my trash can and puke.

My mind runs to Nico as my guts come up. Did he get busted? Is that why there’s a cop here? Did they connect the dots?

I try to play it cool as I wipe off my mouth. “Sorry. Flu.”

That line’s always worked before. But this is a cop, not my parents. And he’s got that look.

He’s not buying.

The clock digits are a bloody red: 3:47 a.m. “What happened?” I ask my doorway parents. “Why is he here?”

“It’s for your own good,” my father says. His voice sounds icy. Hard. A freezer door slamming shut.

“Can you walk?” the cop asks.

I muster a sneer. “Of course I can walk!”

“Then get up and get dressed.” He hands me jeans and a hoodie. “You’re coming with me.”

“What? Why?” I look over, and one of my doorway parents has disappeared. “Mom!” I call. I can hear her crying her way down the hall. “Mom! What is going on!”

She doesn’t answer me. Nobody answers me. I’m shaky and cold and my head is pounding. There are handcuffs on the cop’s belt. I’ve heard they hurt, so I pull on the jeans and yank the hoodie on over the T-shirt I slept in. I feel haphazard. On the verge of puking again. And then I notice that my phone’s gone.

Full-on panic floods over me. I scramble around inside the covers, under my pillow.

“We’ve got your phone,” my father says.

I am so busted.

“Use the bathroom,” the cop tells me. “You’ll be in the car awhile.”

When I come out, my father hands a duffel to the cop and turns to me. His lips are tight white threads across his face. “We’ve tried everything, Wren.”

“So you’re turning me over to the cops? MOM!” I scream past him. “MOM!”

The cop grips my arm, and when I struggle to get free, he wrestles me down the hallway. I can hear my mother crying in the kitchen. “MOM!” I shriek. “WHAT IS GOING ON? HELP ME!”

My brother’s voice seeps through Anabella’s door, high-pitched and desperate. “We have to help Wren!”

“Mowgli!” I call out. “Mo-bro, help me!”

“Are you really that selfish?” my dad says, his words singeing the space between us.

“Why are you doing this to me?” I ask as the cop drags me through the house. We pass by the living room, pass by the piano, and now I’m crying.

“Because we’re at our wits’ end,” my father says. “We’ve run out of options.”

Then the cop’s saying, “We’ll be in touch, Mr. Clemmens,” and I’m being hauled outside.

“Daddy, please!” I cry.

The door closes in my face.


But I’m talking to wood.

Dead, heartless wood.


The cop maneuvers me off the porch and out toward the street, where a black SUV is waiting. It has no police-force markings. Just sleek black, with tinted windows.
“You worried about that?” he says. “At fourteen?”

“Just answer me!”

“Get in.” He opens the door and points me to the far-back seats.

There’s a woman behind the wheel. Blue uniform, gold patches, sunglasses.

In the middle of the night, she’s wearing sunglasses.

“Mornin’, sunshine,” she says, grinning over her shoulder at me.

I want to tell her to shut up, but I climb in back, hoping she’ll give me some answers. “Where we going?”

“Joel didn’t tell you?” she asks, looking at me through the rearview mirror.

So the narc has a name. Joel. “You just told me more than I’ve gotten out of anybody this whole time.”

“Ah,” she says, and eyes Joel over her glasses. “Classified?”

“Need-to-know basis,” he says, shutting the door and sitting in the middle row. “And what you need to know is she’s coming off a high and hungover bad.”

She hands him a barf bag, which gets relayed back to me. “You’re stuck in what you’re wearing for at least twelve,” she says through the mirror. “So I wouldn’t mess ’em up if I were you.”

“Twelve? Twelve what?”

“Hours, honey.” She puts the SUV in drive and pulls forward. “You’re in for a long day.”

“Twelve hours! Where are we going?”

She glances in the mirror. “To LAX.”

“To the airport?” I lunge for the door, but Joel swats me back.

“See?” he tells the driver. “She didn’t need to know that.” Then he turns on me like a big, angry bear. “Let’s get something straight,” he growls. “You’re in my legal custody. I’m allowed to restrain you by force. I’ve dealt with a lot bigger and badder than you, and I’m not in the mood for attitude, runners, or whining. If you want to be handcuffed, just try that again. If not, sit down, strap in, and shut up.”

He stares me down, and it doesn’t take long. I slink back feeling sick, but in a totally different way.

My parents turned over legal custody?

Like, disowned me?

I look out the window. We’ve already left our neighborhood and are speeding along Culver. The street is eerie without the usual traffic. It’s misty nighttime, but there are so many lights along the road, it’s like daylight. We drive past block after block of curving sidewalks lined with hedges and trees and long-leafed plants. Perfectly trimmed, always. When we moved here, that seemed nice. There weren’t chain-link fences or alleyways scattered with trash. Everything was clean and green. And there was room. But we’ve been living here over three years, and I still get turned around when I go more than a few blocks. Every neighborhood looks the same.

We stop at a red light near Nico’s street, and I think about making a dive for it again. Joel’s sitting sideways, and I can see that his eyes are closed. . . . The driver’s looking straight ahead waiting for the light to change. . . . If I can get out, I can ditch them, easy. But . . . would Nico even help me? He’s told me more than once that if I bring trouble, I’m gone.

Suddenly Joel sticks his leg out. “Down, girl,” he snarls, eyes still closed. “Don’t make me cuff you.”

How can he know what I’m thinking? I slump back, feeling way out of my league.

We ramp up to the I-5 freeway and head north, all five lanes to ourselves. I’m paying attention, trying to memorize how to get back to the neighborhood if I can get away.

I recognize the Costco turnoff, which normally takes twenty minutes of stop-and-go traffic to get to, and before I can believe it, we’re long gone, passing signs for Disneyland.

My heart hurts, thinking about Disneyland. Thinking about my brother. He’s never been Morris Lee Clemmens IV to me. He’s always been Mo, Mo-bro, or Mowgli.

My little Jungle Book buddy.

What are they telling him about me?

Will he believe them?

And how could they do this to me? My own parents!

We fly past Disneyland, leave it behind. I hold my head. My heart aches. I can’t seem to breathe.

How could they do this to me?


Excerpted from "Wild Bird"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Wendelin Van Draanen.
Excerpted by permission of Random House Children's Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Wild Bird 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wren goes on a special type of camp and learns wat she wants others and her to see in herself.
Amy_Lib More than 1 year ago
Filling your home to bursting with anger? Or coping with someone who does? Survival in the desert might be simpler. Rarely have I ever cared so much about a character that first made me feel so intensely uncomfortable. Wren begins the story angry, dangerously smart, manipulative, and a sharp observer of her world, who sometimes turns observations backward to fit expectations. She is angry enough to make the pages seem like fire-starter. Seeing the world from her perspective is painful, illuminating, and impossible to put down. She is in a personal wilderness, and soon lands in the real physical wilderness of Utah, at wilderness therapy camp. Knowing what brought her there once felt important. I loved Wren as the story closed, but wanted Wren-agade out of my head. So I’ve thought about this book for months, considering my reaction to two versions of one person. Judging creates that difference. During her stay in the desert, a few key characters quietly accept Wren without judgement, care without conditions, and listen. They wait. Watching the result over time? Life changing for this reader. Wren’s first step onto a long, slippery slope is being lonely, and choosing unwisely when choices are few. After that step, gravity rules, and she lands a long way from anywhere planned. That first missed step could be anyone’s. So a list of how Wren went astray is unhelpful, and invites judgement better avoided. The multiple journeys Wren makes are interwoven—her route into personal wilderness, learning the Utah desert, coming to terms with herself, discovering her own way out—all are here, and detail makes each quite real. This book impels one to speed. But it is also deep and intricate, revealing people in all of their subtle complexity. The story is told in small parts, with chapters of often just three concise pages. The result is remarkably beautiful. Wild Bird has slowly trickled deep into my heart. Like water in the desert, and powerful words for personal deserts, what this book offers is vital, and worth the effort to make your own. Learn Chapter 59 by heart. It will help you avoid landing in places you never intended to go, and help you navigate.
bookcrazedCC More than 1 year ago
"I'm blindfolded for what feels like an hour, jostled around on a dirt road, breathing in dust, feeling like I'm on a sketchy version of Disneyland's Raiders of the Lost Ark ride. Like in another turn we might go crashing down a mountain. Then I remind myself. We're in the desert. The flat, ugly desert." I recently received an ARC for Wild Bird, and I spent three hours crying, laughing, cheering, tensing up, shouting, and saying WOW over and over again as I read this incredibly honest, powerful, and compelling story of one teenager's journey from destruction, loneliness, and bitterness to acceptance, strength, and courage. Wendelin Van Draanen takes her readers on an unforgettable ride through the Utah desert as Wren experiences eight weeks of survival camping in a "Desert Prison" and learns to start a fire in the wilderness and inside herself. As the story unfolds, Wren's anger, destructive behavior, and desperate cry for friendship, love, and understanding are revealed with poignant, insightful storytelling and masterful word imagery. The path to redemption for Wren is a long and arduous adventure that every teenager and adult should experience with her as she leaves the comforts and turmoil of home behind...to venture into the unknown and come face-to-face with physical challenges and with the reality of the person she has become. The research and attention to detail that went into describing Wren's downward spiral and her trek into the expansive Utah terrain make this an exceptional read and destined to be an award winner. I love how the author beautifully weaves Native American legends, told by Mokov, a Paiute storyteller, into the book in a very meaningful way. Van Draanen creates an intense, gritty, thought-provoking story that lends itself to in-depth discussion. It does not cross the line with inappropriate language, violence, or gratuitous scenes. It is a novel that will leave you breathless and satisfied at the same time. I found myself underlining passages and re-reading paragraphs to get the full impact of the messages in them. Wild Bird is a YA contemporary fiction masterpiece and a must read that will appeal to both teen and adult audiences. There is no doubt that it is destined to be a best fiction for young adults selection for 2018. I look forward to September 5th when I can purchase copies to place on my school's library shelves.