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Wolf Hollow

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Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.

304 pages, Hardcover

First published May 3, 2016

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About the author

Lauren Wolk

9 books664 followers
Lauren Wolk is an award-winning poet and author of the bestselling Newbery Honor–winning Wolf Hollow, described by the New York Times Book Review as "full of grace and stark, brutal beauty." She was born in Baltimore and has since lived in California, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Canada, and Ohio. She now lives with her family on Cape Cod.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,182 reviews
Profile Image for Wendy Darling.
1,631 reviews34k followers
June 25, 2016
3.5 stars I liked most of this book very much. Set during World War II, it's the story of Annabelle, whose idyllic farm life and friendship with an older war veteran named Toby is threatened when a bully named Betty moves into town.

Things I enjoyed: the rural Pennsylvania setting, Annabelle's family (particularly her parents), the friendship with Toby, and the explanation behind the title Wolf Hollow, which is also the name of the town. My favorite thing about the book was the way it makes you feel deeply for veterans of war, especially the way trauma can change someone and how little sympathy and patience we sometimes extend to those we don't understand.

Even as I experienced sadness and pity, however, I couldn't help being conscious of being maneuvered into feeling that way; it's not overly written, exactly, but perhaps some of the "teaching" moments were emphasized a touch too much or a touch too often for me to dissolve into the kind of grief or tears that I think a story like this would normally elicit. Betty the young villainness is also so cruel, and the scenarios so involved that I sometimes had a hard time suspending disbelief. It's not that children can't be cruel, but within the context of this story and our limited understanding of Betty, I didn't feel entirely satisfied with her portrayal or her role in the way things play out.

On a more positive note: I don't know the exact inspiration behind this book, but I definitely felt shades of To Kill a Mockingbird as I was reading it, and seeing the blurb afterwards confirms that those echoes aren't unfounded. The parallels are strongest for the unjust accusations and mob mentality , the mockingbird/wolf analogy, and the feel of a childhood disturbed. Whether this was meant to be a reimagining of TKAM, or just strongly influenced by it, the author really does pull off the difficult trick of giving us a Boo Radley figure, as well as tracing the way a friendship with an adult can be an important basis for our formation. As a child, I had strong relationships with adults that help make me who I am, and I'm glad to see that books like this and Tell the Wolves I'm Home explore that. We see so many stories, real and imagined, about the dangers adults can present to kids that it's nice to enjoy a positive experience as well.

Worthwhile reading? Most definitely. I was moved by it and appreciated what it set out to do. I just wish it had pulled back just a little, and that Betty was better realized, and that some of what happens didn't feel quite so inevitable.

I might've even cried if the story didn't work quite so hard to make me do so.

An audio review copy was provided by the publisher.

Emily Rankin does a lovely job narrating the story, by the way. Perhaps a few too many meaningful pauses, but her overall reading (and the different voices) were very enjoyable to listen to.

Profile Image for Betsy.
Author 8 books2,825 followers
May 13, 2016
I am not what you might call a very brave reader. This is probably why I primarily consume children’s literature. I might puff myself up with a defense that lists the many fine aspects of this particular type of writing and believe it too, but sometimes when you catch me in a weak moment I might confess that another reason I like reading books for kids is that the content is so very “safe” in comparison to books for adults. Disturbing elements are kept at a minimum. There’s always a undercurrent of hope running through the book, promising that maybe we don’t live in a cold, cruel, calculating universe that cares for us not one jot. Even so, that doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes have difficulty with books written for, oh say, 10-year-olds. I do. I’m not proud of it, but I do. So when I flipped to the back of Wolf Hollow mid-way through reading it, I want to tell you that I did so not because I wanted to spoil the ending for myself but because I honestly couldn’t turn another page until I knew precisely how everything was going to fall out. In her debut children’s book, Lauren Wolk dives head first into difficult material. A compelling author, the book is making the assumption that child readers will want to see what happens to its characters, even when the foreshadowing is so thick you’d need a knife to cut through it. Even when the ending may not be the happy one everyone expects. And you know what? The book might be right.

It is fair to say that if Betty Glengarry hadn’t moved to western Pennsylvania in the autumn of 1943 then Annabelle would not have needed to become a liar later. Betty looks the part of the blond, blue-eyed innocent, but that exterior hides a nasty spirit. Within days of her arrival she’s threatened Annabelle and said in no uncertain terms that unless she’s brought something special she’ll take it out on the girl’s little brothers. Annabelle is saved from Betty's threats by Toby, a war veteran with issues of his own. That’s when Betty begins a more concentrated campaign of pain. Rocks are thrown. Accusations made. There’s an incident that comes close to beheading someone. And then, when things look particularly bad, Betty disappears. And so does Toby. Now Annabelle finds herself trying to figure out what is right, what is wrong, and whether lies can ever lead people to the truth.

Right off the bat I’m going to tell you that this is a spoiler-rific review. I’ve puzzled it over but I can’t for the life of me figure out how I’d be able to discuss what Wolk’s doing here without giving away large chunks o’ plot. So if you’re the kind of reader who prefers to be surprised, walk on.

All gone? Okay. Let’s get to it.

First and foremost, let’s talk about why this book was rough going for me. I understand that “Wolf Hollow” is going to be categorized and tagged as a “bully book” for years to come, and I get that. But Betty, the villain of the piece, isn’t your average mean girl. I hesitate to use the word “sadistic” but there’s this cold undercurrent to her that makes for a particularly chilling read. Now the interesting thing is that Annabelle has a stronger spine than, say, I would in her situation. Like any good baddie, Betty identifies the girl’s weak spot pretty quickly (Annabelle’s younger brothers) and exploits it as soon as she is able. Even so, Annabelle does a good job of holding her own. It’s when Betty escalates the threat (and I do mean escalates) that you begin to wonder why the younger girl is so adamant to keep her parents in the dark about everything. If there is any weak spot in the novel, it’s a weak spot that a lot of books for middle grade titles share. Like any good author, Wolk can’t have Annabelle tattle to her parents because otherwise the book’s momentum would take a nose dive. Fortunately this situation doesn’t last very long and when Annabelle does at last confide in her very loving parents Betty adds manipulation to her bag of tricks. It got to the point where I honestly had to flip to the back of the book to see what would happen to everyone and that is a move I NEVER do. But there’s something about Betty, man. I think it might have something to do with how good she is at playing to folks’ preexisting prejudices.

Originally author Lauren Wolk wrote this as a novel for adults. When it was adapted into a book for kids she didn’t dumb it down or change the language in a significant manner. This accounts for some of the lines you’ll encounter in the story that bear a stronger import than some books for kids. Upon finding the footsteps of Betty in the turf, Annabelle remarks that they “were deep and sharp and suggested that she was more freighted than she could possibly be.” Of Toby, “He smelled a lot like the woods in thaw or a dog that’s been out in the rain. Strong, but not really dirty.” Maybe best of all, when Annabelle must help her mother create a salve for Betty’s poison ivy, “Together, we began a brew to soothe the hurt I’d prayed for.”

I shall restrain myself from describing to you fully how elated I was when I realized the correlation between Betty down in the well and the wolves that were trapped in the hollow so very long ago. Betty is a wolf. A duplicitous, scheming, nasty girl with a sadistic streak a mile wide. The kind of girl who would be more than willing to slit the throat of an innocent boy for sport. She’s a lone wolf, though she does find a mate/co-conspirator of sorts. Early in the book, Wolk foreshadows all of this. In a conversation with her grandfather, Annabelle asks if, when you raised it right, a wolf could become a dog. “A wolf is not a dog and never will be . . . no matter how you raise it.” Of course you might call Toby a lone wolf as well. He doesn’t seek out the company of other people and, like a wolf, he’s shot down for looking like a threat.

What Wolk manages to do is play with the reader’s desire for righteous justice. Sure Annabelle feels conflicted about Betty’s fate in the will but will young readers? There is no doubt in my mind that young readers in bookclubs everywhere will have a hard time feeling as bad for the antagonist’s fate as Annabelle does. Even at death’s door, the girl manages the twist the knife into Toby one last time. I can easily see kids in bookclub’s saying, “Sure, it must be awful to be impaled in a well for days on end . . . . buuuut . . . .” Wolk may have done too good a job delving deep into Betty’s dark side. It almost becomes a question of grace. We’re not even talking about forgiveness here. Can you just feel bad about what’s happened to the girl, even if it hasn’t changed her personality and even if she’s still awful? Wolk might have discussed after Betty’s death the details of her family situation, but she chooses not to. She isn’t making it easy for us. Betty lives and dies a terrible human being, yet oddly we’re the ones left with the consequences of that.

In talking with other people about the book, some have commented about what it a relief it was that Betty didn’t turn into a sweet little angel after her accident. This is true, but there is also no time. There will never be any redemption for Betty Glengarry. We don’t learn any specific details about her unhappy home life or what it was that turned her into the pint-sized monster she is. And her death comes in that quiet, unexpected way that so many deaths do come to us. Out of the blue and with a whisper. For all that she spent time in the well, she lies until her very last breath about how she got there. It’s like the novel Atonement with its young liar, but without the actual atoning.

Wolk says she wrote this book and based much of it on her own family’s stories. Her memories provided a great deal of the information because, as she says, even the simplest life on a Pennsylvanian farm can yield stories, all thanks to a child’s perspective. There will be people who compare it to To Kill a Mockingbird but to my mind it bears more in common with The Crucible. So much of the book examines how we judge as a society and how that judgment can grow out of hand (the fact that both this book and Miller’s play pivot on the false testimony of young girls is not insignificant). Now I’ll tell you the real reason I flipped to the back of the book early. With Wolf Hollow Wolk threatens child readers with injustice. As you read, there is a very great chance that Betty’s lies will carry the day and that she’ll never be held accountable for her actions. It doesn’t work out that way, though the ending isn’t what you’d call triumphant for Annabelle either. It’s all complicated, but it was that unknowing midway through the book that made me need to see where everything was going. In this book there are pieces to pick apart about lying, truth, the greater good, minority vs. majority opinions, the price of honesty and more. For that reason, I think it very likely it’ll find itself in good standing for a long time to come. A book unafraid to be uneasy.

For ages 9-12.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Karina.
849 reviews
February 1, 2019
Loved it!! A story about bullies and being a decent human being. I'd recommend to YAs and adults alike. Wolk weaved a wonderful story from beginning to end... This was her debut and I must say a very good one. I recently read Beyond the Bright Sea and it doesn't compare to this..
Profile Image for Brandy Painter.
1,632 reviews251 followers
May 18, 2023
I almost want to start a whole new shelf just for this "middle-grade-except-not-really".

Yes, it is yet another much hyped and lauded MG book of 2016 I don't like. It will be easy for many to dismiss me as simply having a contrary year, but really why the love for this book in the kidlit world? It is extremely well written. It is not a book for children though. I'm not saying this in a way that means "teacher book" like I would call Pax or that it's like a Pixar movie in book form like I would call Hokey Pokey. It is an adult literary fiction novel never mind the age of the protagonist. You know how the Flavia de Luce books by Alan Bradley could technically be sold as MG because of Flavia's age? Yeah. I think any one who has read those books is in agreement their placement in adult mystery fiction is right. Just because this book is about bullying and a young protagonist doesn't make it MG. It's non-linear in many places, it meanders in stream of consciousness thought, it wallows in the misery of human existence, and is hopeless hopeless hopeless. It is everything I hate about adult lit fic. It exemplifies all the reasons why I spend my time reading (actual) children's fiction and only read genre fiction when I read adult. I won't be recommending this to anyone, but if depressing adult fiction is your jam, you may want to try it.
Profile Image for Melki.
6,029 reviews2,385 followers
May 15, 2018
"A wolf is not a dog and never will be," he said, "no matter how you raise it."

There is a girl, a bully, a family and a loner.

Bad things happen.

There is fear, and strength, false accusations, and true affection.

Sad things happen.

Above all, there is grace in the presence of utter cruelty.
Profile Image for Calista.
4,061 reviews31.3k followers
June 11, 2018
I know one should never judge a book by it's cover, yet I saw the title and the cover and I knew I wanted to read this. I had no idea what it would be about. I thought it might be a fantasy story. It was so much more than I expected and so deep.

This is set in the 40s during the war. Annabeth lives in a small farm town in Pennsylvania where life is idyllic. Then a girl her age moves in named Betty. Betty is one of those people that only want to see the world burn. She is a leaf from the page of a bad seed. Even at the end of the story, she does not change or bend.

As soon as Betty shows up, things start happening and Annabeth is bullied. People are hurt. Annabeth does her best to tell her parents what is happening. She thinks things will get better and yet they only get worse.

One of the main characters is a homeless man named Toby who was in WWI. He is broken and suffering from PTSD. Many people think he is very weird, but Annabeth and her family treat Toby with respect and Annabeth is friends with Toby.

The story is about Annabeth struggling with the truth. Betty tells lies and people believe her and Annabeth knows she is lying, yet no one believes that.

This is a coming of age story about dealing with the truth and very big issues. It is also about decisions we make and how we must live with those decisions. It is a deep book with much heart and having integrity.

It is so well written and it has such a strong voice. I was swept up in this story and I miss it. Books this good are rare.
Profile Image for Hilary .
2,259 reviews404 followers
February 18, 2021
I read this aloud to my almost 15yr old daughter and right up to last 2 chapters this was a 5 star read but ending was just so devastatingly sad, realistic yes, but we were both surprised for a young adult book to end in such a bleak way. This book contained it's fair share of realism, a realistic depiction of bullying, PTSD and what lies can do. We had really grown to love these characters so to find in the final pages

I was surprised at the ending for a YA book and it felt especially cruel as we both thought

Having loved this book and characters we were left feeling really disappointed and depressed by the ending. We know horrible things happen and don't expect fairytale endings but this felt too sad.

Have just changed my rating to 4 stars, despite what I’ve said above this book has stayed with us both. Despite my disappointment in this being so sad it is a really wonderful book.
Profile Image for Sara Grochowski.
1,142 reviews566 followers
January 21, 2016
WOLF HOLLOW is a masterfully written, moving story set in the shadow of World War II about a young girl named Annabelle who must stand strong when confronted by a manipulative tyrant. When Annabelle rebuffs the demands of the local bully, Betty Glengarry, she unintentionally shifts the attention of the Betty's dark schemes unto the solitary World War I veteran Toby. When Betty goes missing, the town immediately suspects Toby of wrongdoing. Annabelle, certain that the gentle, scarred Toby would never hurt Betty, sets out to clear her his name and open the town's eyes to the truth. This remarkable story is sure to stir the emotions of even the most stoic reader, inspiring readers for generations to come.
Profile Image for Virginie Roy.
Author 2 books623 followers
July 5, 2020
It was good, but I was expecting more. It didn't grab my attention from the beginning and I was not that eager to continue my reading. On the other hand, some aspects were really touching and I liked Toby's character. I would recommend this book to middle grade readers without hesitation!

3.5 stars rounded down
Profile Image for La Crosse County Library.
571 reviews158 followers
March 21, 2022

“The year I turned twelve, I learned how to lie.

I don’t mean the small fibs that children tell. I mean real lies fed by real fears – things I said and did that took me out of the life I’d always know and put me down hard into a new one.”

When I read these opening lines from Wolf Hollow, the award-winning middle grade novel by Lauren Wolk, my reading radar pinged. Sometimes you just know when you start a book that you are in good hands and the author is about to take you somewhere memorable. That’s how I felt about this beautiful, heartbreaking book.

Set in 1943 in rural Pennsylvania, Wolf Hollow tells the story of Annabelle, a 12-year-old girl whose “…steady life began to spin,” the day a new girl moves to town. Sent to Wolf Hollow to live with her grandparents, Betty Glengarry arrives and begins viciously bullying Annabelle and her little brothers. When Betty crosses paths with Toby, a bearded loner traumatized by the war, her malice turns to lies that end in tragedy.

Annabelle is the narrator of this story, and I kept thinking as I was reading, “She reminds me of Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird.” Both books tackle complex topics of morality and justice as seen through the eyes of a young girl. And when you turn the final page, both leave you with characters and a story difficult to forget.

The sequel, titled My Own Lightning, will be published this May. If you enjoy historical fiction or embrace powerful stories without tidy endings, pick up Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk.

5 stars

-Katherine, Youth Services

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Profile Image for Laura Harrison.
1,030 reviews113 followers
February 10, 2017
I just reread Wolf Hollow and feel like I have to revise my initial opinions. They were mostly based on the authors writing skill which is apparent. The descriptions in Wolf Hollow are extensive and well researched. I'm not so sure that writing children's books, however, is where her talent lies. As an extensive reader of children's books (part of my career), I am somewhat of an expert on sad, depressing children's titles. Some years ago we were inundated by them. Don't get me started on Kira-Kira (a Newbery winner). Summer reading list time is upon us and I just can't bring myself to recommend Wolf Hollow. Writing about bullies is important for sure. But there was no turn about or redemption depicted. The bully got what she wanted in the end. Betty paid a huge price for her cruelty. But ultimately even though the truth was mostly out, her virtue went unscathed. To me, the book was shell like. Nothing inside that I could grab onto, or relate to. You feel bad about Toby, and you don't want Annabelle to be beaten but I didn't really care for anyone in the book. It is important to empathize fully with the characters. I also found the book to be tedious and redundant in many parts. A child would be hard pressed to stick with many chapters. There are some wonderful, hopeful new Spring releases for children this year. Wolf Hollow may not be one of them.
Profile Image for Destinee.
1,608 reviews149 followers
August 16, 2016
I really loved this book. It's gorgeously written, full of wisdom, and hard to put down. The thing is, I'm not entirely convinced it's a children's book. Someone told me the author originally imagined it being marketed to adults but she was persuaded to turn it into a middle grade novel. Even if that's not true, it seems true. Like The Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird, this book is complex enough for any adult, but happens to follow the experiences of a young person. Does that in itself make it a YA or middle grade book? As I was reading I noted many places where the meaning was so subtle, I had to re-read it and then put the book down for a minute to ponder. It was also so heart-wrenching at times, so real, that tears sprang to my eyes. I'm not saying this book is "inappropriate" for children. I'm saying most children are probably not mature enough to really sink their teeth into it. The voice of the narration is that of an older Annabelle looking back on the year before she turned 12. It's not fully an 11-year-old's voice, though the narration accounts for what she perceived at the time, versus what she understands in retrospect.

Literature is literature, no matter who it's marketed to, but I feel like this will present a challenge to award committees. This is, without a doubt, one of the finest books I've ever read. But I can't imagine recommending it to many children. Teens, yes. Adults, definitely. It is my sincere hope that it finds a wide readership despite being sold as middle grade fiction. It explores prejudice against people who are perceived as "odd" and the difficult balance between doing what is right and what is expected. Annabelle's mother has some wonderfully powerful lines - the one about numbness and hurt comes to mind. Toby is a character that reminds me (and a lot of readers) of Boo Radley, but he also made me thing of The Things They Carried, especially because he carries those heavy guns on his back. Annabelle as a narrator reminded me a little of Briony in Atonement because of her perspicacity and also her unusual position of power as a child in an adult world. Betty, though a villain, still inspires traces of sympathy. But, I have to admit, I thought mostly of Macaulay Culkin's character in the movie The Good Son (which I just googled and learned was written by Ian McEwan! Who knew?)

If you've made it this far and haven't read the book, I hope you do.
Profile Image for zane deann.
206 reviews3 followers
May 23, 2018
I am extremely disappointed. For a lot of reasons.

I'm disappointed that this kind of book is put in the children's section at the library. I'm disappointed that the story was so dark and disturbing. I'm even disappointed that the story didn't live up to the pretty cover.

This is NOT a book I would EVER recommend to children. Ever, ever, ever. It makes me cringe to think of my little sister reading this - I would never give this to her. It was hard for me to read as a sixteen-year-old.

The writing style wasn't great. Certainly not something I see a middle grader enjoying, but I may b
e wrong. The plot was full of holes, and there is a lot of lying, deceit, and concealing things from parents. Annabelle is unbelievable. I don't think any eleven/twelve-year-olds actually act like her.

I was not sucked in by the characters, and wasn't gripped by the story, and only kept reading because I wanted to know if it really continued to be as bad as it was already. I was never extremely sad because I didn't connect with the characters, but everything was very sad and depressing.

It was graphic, disturbing, and ending in a grim way with hardly any hope. I believe that no matter how dark the story, there should always be a glimmer of hope running through, especially in children's stories.

I don't understand why this is in the children's section. I have been very disappointed by middle grade fiction, which is one of the reasons I'm determined to write REALLY GOOD middle grade.

Because this is not what children should be reading. This is not a story for children. When I look at the books in the children's section of the library, I am disappointed because these books are the ones forming the minds of the next generation, and a good deal of them are rubbish.

Don't give this to your kids.
Profile Image for Susan Berlin.
1 review1 follower
January 6, 2016
Wolf Hollow is the kind of book where, with about 20 pages left to read, you start hoping there's a sequel because you don't want it to end. Extremely well-written, not a single unnecessary word, no fat to trim. Suspenseful, intriguing and compelling all the way through. A very good read!
Profile Image for Lori Tatar.
614 reviews64 followers
March 18, 2016
I just finished reading Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk and must say that it is one of the best coming-of-age stories I have ever read. It can be shelved proudly alongside others like The Outsiders, To Kill a Mockingbird and Where the Red Fern Grows, a few of my favorites. It illustrates how sometimes even doing the right thing isn't neccesarily the best thing, and the most important decisions are seldom the easiest. It also shows that sometimes, regardless of our actions and intentions, we can only influence events to a point. There are other influences driving different outcomes. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, life serves a bitter cup. The story is not about the darkness nearly as much as it is about the light, and the love of a family and dear friends.
Profile Image for Beverly.
833 reviews314 followers
September 8, 2017
Great young adult book about bullies and knowing who you are.
Profile Image for Kayla Overbey.
129 reviews9 followers
May 12, 2016
[No spoilers] This is not a happy book. What did I like most about it? It tackled some really heavy topics, such as death, depression and mental illness, and bullying. And the cover - that cover is gorgeous.

What did I NOT like about it?
1) It didn't feel like it was set in the 1940s. The setting felt older than that to me.
2) Those heavy topics weren't really fleshed out enough for my liking or well enough to explain to kids. I can't imagine reading this as a child and understanding what Toby's condition was, for instance. Maybe the reader isn't meant to understand?
3) I didn't think the parental figures were very realistic when it came to including Annabelle in such adult conversations. Maybe they saw her as older than her years, and she did seem quite mature for a 12-year-old.
4) There seemed to be too much of a formula. Step 1: Annabelle sees a problem. Step 2: Annabelle doesn't know what to do. Step 3: Annabelle ponders and comes up with an answer. Step 4: Annabelle lies to her parents and digs herself deeper. Step 5: The truth comes out and Annabelle saves the day, with no retribution for her lies or more dangerous actions.
5) The more graphic moments felt, to me, to be thrown into the story in order to bring it up a level. It didn't feel well-executed IMO.
5) Henry's turnaround. What was that about? It wasn't explained at all, really. Just like BAM he grew up out of nowhere?

I hate to give such a scathing review, and I usually rate books much higher, but I really didn't like this story. I wanted to, but I didn't.
Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 28 books5,675 followers
February 25, 2017
A hard look at the way we treat others: strangers, friends, and family, set against the backdrop of a small farm community during WWII. A tragic book, not maudlin or unnecessarily grim, but definitely not a cheerful story. I have heard nothing but praise for it, even before the Newbery Honor, and I hope it continues to hold people's attention, because it should be widely read.
Profile Image for Victoria Scott.
Author 52 books2,908 followers
July 31, 2016
A beautifully raw novel for all ages. One of those stories that whisks you away to another time and place, and makes you feel love, hate, and a rainbow of emotions in between. Splendid!
Profile Image for Manybooks.
3,206 reviews104 followers
June 22, 2021
Maybe I should be giving Lauren Wolk’s 2017 Newbery Honour Wolf Hollow more of a chance before deciding on not finishing. But honestly, after about a hundred odd pages of almost continuously dreary and painful historical fiction (set in WWII, in rural Pennsylvania) and an extremely slow paced writing style that kind of makes the resulting reading discomfort even more in my proverbial face so to speak, even more lacking in any kind of joy, I have decided on an attitude of ABSOLUTELY NO MORE and to simply abandon Wolf Hollow as a DNF.

For while the sombre mood and the painful, horrible themes and contents presented by Lauren Wolk in Wolf Hollow certainly are textually interesting to a point and as such also successfully enough depicted with regard to a general and in fact almost a naturalistic type of narrational realism, I just am not AT ALL in the mood for this kind of reading negativity at present, I just do not want to keep reading in Wolf Hollow about Betty, about her cruel bullying, about how everyone either does not believe Betty could be this relentlessly, mercilessly nasty or is afraid of speaking out. And while Toby as a WWII veteran with clearly undiagnosed PTSD being wrongfully accused and scapegoated sadly does make sense (and in particular in the rural, small town WWII America setting of Wolf Hollow), it also really does not make Wolf Hollow any more readable and it does in no way even remotely entice me to want to continue (and especially so since the ending of Wolf Hollow is supposedly even more sad and horrible and I just do not think that I want this for my reading time at present, period).

And if I do decide to restart and then finish reading Wolf Hollow sometime in the future, I would definitely also consider revisiting my review and rating Lauren Wolk’s narrative with more than just two stars if warranted and of course provided that my textual reaction to Wolk’s writing actually manages to improve. But for now, and with me truly neither enjoying nor appreciating Wolf Hollow enough for me to consider going on with my perusal, I both can and will only consider but the two stars mentioned above for Wolf Hollow (and yes, this is also me being rather generous, for usually, if I have been unable to complete a given book, my ratings tend to be only one star).
Profile Image for Josiah.
3,220 reviews146 followers
April 19, 2020
Countless greats of American juvenile literature went their entire careers without winning a Newbery, so when an author earns a Newbery Honor on her first attempt, as Lauren Wolk did for Wolf Hollow in 2017, it's worth noting. The novel strikes a different tone from most youth literature, creating an atmosphere of unease and suspense that keeps the reader flipping pages. It's 1943, the year Annabelle McBride will turn twelve years old. No part of society is unaffected by the two world wars of the past quarter century, not even the small farming town Annabelle and her family call home in Pennsylvania. Anguished former soldiers have traveled in and out of the area for decades, most staying only briefly before moving on, but a drifter named Toby made a permanent home in an abandoned smokehouse not far from the McBride farm. Locals were wary of the silent, serious man with his long beard and hair, carrying a trio of rifles on his back, but Annabelle grew to see that Toby was scarred inside and out by the war in Europe, coping with horrific memories and endeavoring to stay sane. Annabelle doesn't always get along with her younger brothers—nine-year-old Henry and seven-year-old James—but she loves the rhythm of life on and around the farm. Then comes the autumn of '43, a season that changes everything.

Sweet and petite at first blush, fourteen-year-old Betty Glengarry is sent to live with her grandparents in a town near Annabelle. Rumor has it that Betty is a problem child, too much for her parents to wrangle, and some time out in the country air might do her good. Right away the older girl targets Annabelle for bullying, cornering her daily on the walk to school through the pretty vale called Wolf Hollow, demanding Annabelle give her things. The McBrides have money, don't they? Will it hurt Annabelle to fork over some of it to Betty, whose family subsists on so little? That's how Betty frames the situation. Failure to comply will yield unpleasant results, Betty warns, brandishing a heavy stick at Annabelle. She soon proves she's not averse to using the stick, but Annabelle is more worried by Betty's threats against Henry and James. The boys run ahead of Annabelle to school every day, never heeding her calls to wait; Betty could harm them without Annabelle being there to stop her. Annabelle is sick at the thought, but she's not ready to tell her parents about Betty. She doesn't want to trigger a violent reaction against Henry and James.

Temporary relief comes when Betty takes interest in Andy Woodberry, one of the older boys in school, but before long he and Betty are conspiring to intensify her harassment of Annabelle. A gut-wrenching incident leaves Annabelle's best friend Ruth gruesomely injured, but were Betty and Andy behind it? Could Betty be that evil, or is someone else to blame for Ruth's life-altering tragedy? Annabelle treats Betty with barely veiled contempt when the older girl attempts to extort money from her now. What do a few nasty whacks from a stick matter after what happened to Ruth? Betty won't back down, especially not now that she's colluding with Andy. Her violence against the three McBride siblings worsens until Annabelle can't keep the secret anymore; her parents have to know. Betty has treated Annabelle despicably, but how much is provable? What if Betty has set a trap for a third party to take the fall should Annabelle report her to an authority? The tension of Annabelle's standoff with Betty shifts to Toby, that World War I veteran content to wander Wolf Hollow with his guns and camera, quietly wrestling with inner demons that others can only speculate about. Toby says little even to Annabelle, and rarely interacts with anyone else, but Betty's insinuations place him under the microscope of public scrutiny. Is he, not Betty, responsible for the worst offenses to befall Ruth, Annabelle, and her brothers? Is Toby's soul darker than Annabelle believes, a breeding ground for heinous acts that would horrify the community?

Betty leverages her young, innocent appearance to generate suspicion against Toby, but Annabelle is convinced he isn't a monster. Her mother and father acknowledge he's an "odd" character, traipsing around the woods with his guns, conversing only with Annabelle, but they have no reason to believe he's a menace. If Betty can't get to Annabelle through physical intimidation, though, then Toby might be a weakness she can exploit. The police get involved at Betty's insistent claim that Toby is depraved and must be stopped before he causes more harm. We have a missing persons report, a young girl suddenly gone from her home, and Toby missing at approximately the same time; we have photographs discovered, taken by Toby on his camera, that toe the line between artistic curiosity and impropriety; we have local and state authorities desperately searching the woods for a man and a girl, time running out to avoid tragedy. How far will Annabelle go to shield her "odd" friend? Does she believe his innocence absolutely, or could some of Betty's allegations be true? Annabelle's aunt Lily, who lives with the family, vociferously opposes Toby even if she's not quite on Betty's side either, but where do Annabelle's parents stand? Are they comfortable with her relationship with Toby, or do they harbor doubts that he's safe for her to spend time with alone? If they knew Annabelle was hiding him from the police, would they help her, or expose Toby to the increasingly hostile community? Constable Oleska, Officer Coleman, and the rest of the police diligently look for the missing girl, but Annabelle knows the area better than any of them, and more important, she knows Betty Glengarry. What small detail could she be aware of that might unravel the mystery and set the police on the path to exonerating Toby? It isn't as easy as solving a mystery, however. Distrust of Toby won't easily fade, and the ocean of fear in that man from the unspeakable terrors of war is likely to bubble up at any moment. What hope is there for a broken person in a world stained by indifference? Can there truly be a happy ending in Wolf Hollow, a place that can't escape its own sinister past?

Life is a delicate balance. Boredom can feel as though it will stretch on forever, a prison without walls to break out of. Yet how quickly it can morph into excruciating anxiety, leaving us yearning for the dullery we were so ready to be done with. Fear engulfs the mind and we forget how we wished for something new and exciting; in the midst of crisis, all we want is for it to end. We'd give anything to hide under a comforting blanket of anonymity and be left alone. Drama, boredom, excitement, disappointment, and many other elements comprise our lives, each in turn feeling novel and then stale if we remain in that element for long, but major change comes at a price. Annabelle sees this play out as she goes from desiring some pizazz in her small-town life to wanting nothing but to hide until the conflict drifts away like storm clouds. "Just weeks ago I'd begun to hunger for change, impatient with my life, much as I loved it. Somewhere, excitement waited for me like an uncut cake. Now I wanted nothing more than to be still and thoughtful and quiet for just a little while." Be careful about wishing to be involved in adult matters that your parents think you're too young for. Soon enough you'll be unable to avoid realities that make you feel unclean, and you'll long for the innocence you so eagerly shed. So it is for Annabelle at the tail end of her twelfth year.

Though admittedly a darker story, Wolf Hollow has some thematic commonality with another Newbery book, The Defender by Nicholas Kalashnikoff (Newbery Honor, 1952). How does the world treat individuals whose interests deviate from the norm to an extent that causes reasonable people to suspicion them? Are they wrong for existing outside the window of "acceptable" eccentricity, or does society need a few strange birds? Is it better to give them a wide berth, assuming they could be dangerous, or take a chance and embrace their idiosyncrasies in the conviction that unusual people have something to contribute, and by ostracizing them we doom these individuals to a lonely life for no reason? Whether it's a mountain dweller with a unique affinity for wild rams (as in The Defender), or an ex-military man who can only converse unguardedly with a kind, unthreatening young girl like Annabelle, people have reasons for their quirks, and great harm is done when we condemn them for being "odd." Good and evil surely grapple in the hearts of societal outcasts, and taking due caution is wise, but the debate between acceptance and rejection of such individuals is a complex issue we should not decide glibly.

If I were to chart desirable traits in youth literature and connect them to the author best representative of each trait, one of the rarest would be Robert Cormier. Wolf Hollow has an unmistakable dash of that unsettling Cormier magic, the pervasive feeling that things won't necessarily turn out right, that bloodshed and suffering might lurk at the story's end. Betrayal may occur without redemption, accusation without exoneration, and as in real life, we must learn to reconcile ourselves to these realities. Wolf Hollow is far from a complete victory for its protagonists; if you want a narrative that ends in predictable cheer, look elsewhere. But it's a superb novel because of this commitment to telling a story that's allowed to venture into the dark woods and emerge grievously wounded on the opposite side. Lauren Wolk's juvenile debut is richly deserving of its Newbery Honor, and I urge you to read it if you appreciate children's authors who aren't afraid to write downbeat books. I'll always treasure Wolf Hollow.
Profile Image for Danielle.
Author 2 books231 followers
November 28, 2016
This book is gripping and masterfully written. It distresses and surprises. It will break your heart while expanding it.

"At times, I was so confused that I felt like the stem of a pinwheel surrounded by whir and clatter, but through that whole unsettling time I knew that it simply would not do to hide in the barn with a book and an apple and let events plunge forward without me..."

These were fitting lines of a first chapter to read in November of 2016.
Profile Image for The Captain.
1,096 reviews404 followers
January 28, 2020
Ahoy there me mateys! I loved the author's book beyond the bright sea and thought it was past time I read this book.  It was on me list longer as it be a Newbery Honor book and I heard of it first. In comparison to her other book, this one was so different in tone.  It was not light-hearted and I wasn't expecting that as I had long ago forgotten the blurb. I listened to the first part on audiobook and then switched to ebook so I could finish it faster.

This story follows Annabelle who lives on a small farm in Pennsylvania.  In her twelfth year, a new girl comes to town and changes both the town and Annabelle specially.  When a horrible event happens, the accusations begin.  Annabelle must decide how important are friendship and the truth and what to do when no one believes you.

This is a beautiful coming-of-age story.  It is also a wonderful story about the effects of bullying and prejudice and lying.  Annabelle makes a believable and lovable protagonist.  I adored that Annabelle's whole family is present and caring.  I thought the author used the family itself as excellent insight and counterpoint to Annabelle's point of view.  In addition, the world building about life on a small rural farm was lovely.  Also the audiobook narrator, Emily Rankin, did an excellent job.  I highly recommend both books by the author.

As Matey Milliebot says in her review:

"Let’s see…topics Wolf Hollow deals with (excellently): Bullying, standing up for what you believe is right, trauma, dealing with the consequences of your actions, lying, friendship, grief, prejudice and supporting your family. This book handles a lot of heavy topics and while it’s not an entirely easy read, I think it has the right mix of honesty, tough themes and positive moments."

Side note:  Though I understand the comparison of this book and to kill a mockingbird, I feel that it does both books a disservice. Also the author has a new book coming out in April. Arrrr!
Profile Image for Elizabeth☮ .
1,568 reviews11 followers
June 11, 2018
Set in the countryside of Pennsylvania during the second world war, Annabelle's life is turned upside down when Betty comes to town. Betty is a bully of the worst kind: everyone believes her and can't see past the façade.

Annabelle is friends with enigmatic Toby - he is former soldier that is suffering from what can only be PTSD. Toby lives on the periphery of the town and so is automatically an outcast, but Annabelle's family always shows him kindness.

The story goes in a direction that has the reader on edge and I literally burst into tears when I got to a page at the end. Burst into tears.

I have to love a book that offers such a realistic connection to characters and such a visceral reaction.
Profile Image for FOOD'n'BOOKS.
3 reviews81 followers
February 28, 2017

Well! I was surprised by this book. Picked up this book because a lot of other people i knew were reading it and someone recommended it(well a few). At first i was thinking that it was going to be a soft book with a reasonable dilemma but toned down from its reality. This book was NOT THAT.

This book "stars" a young girl named Annabelle. She lives on a rural farm in a town in WWII era Pennsylvania. She meets Betty, a wonderful little girl, who is nothing but a BULLY. I couldn't figure out from the book why Betty was such an evil person, but i don't think that is what the author was focused on that in the story. Betty bullies the crap out of Annabelle, as in she does some really nasty things to her.

Another part of the story is Toby. A WWI vet., a "wanderer" according to the book. He is a very big introvert, he speaks to almost no one, and barely says anything when he does. Supposedly, Toby is not PTSD or ShellShock, he just has something else inside of him from the war. This elaborates in the story, but i'll leave it there.

Eventually Toby and Betty's paths meet and a battle of trust, anger, and sympathy ensue. I liked how this book played out but i feel like the author wasn't quite sure how it would play out. If we could have gotten multiple points of view in this story it could have been better an saved me from some anguish through the book, but i'll let it go. I think we might have gotten a slightly more complete/filled-out story if the author had done this. STILL A GREAT BOOK, No regrets about reading this book although i don't know if i really learned any lessons.

All in all, Great book for many different ages. A good book especially for kids, i think it would lead them into the Young Adult genre very well, probably my favorite genre!!! :)

Any questions about other things in the book? FEEL FREE TO LEAVE THEM IN THE COMMENTS. Thanks for reading, and maybe pick this book up and give it a try! :0

Profile Image for Scott Fillner.
266 reviews36 followers
May 9, 2016
AMAZING book! I am definitely not the first to call it, but will echo many of the voices I have heard, which have said this is a Newbery contender.

The story and the character development was so well done. You instantly fall in love, out of favor, and are so unsure what to make of characters in this novel. By the end, it all becomes clear to you, but not all emotion will be resolved for you (at least it hasn't yet for me). The story itself is so original and will have you literally devouring your fingernails!

This historical fiction novel reminded me in some ways of current books like The War that Saved my Life, Some Kind of Courage, and Hour of the Bees.

I agree with SO many others who said this is a can't miss, must read. You will not be disappointed if you choose to read this. You will only be disappointed if you choose not to.
Profile Image for Sara.
450 reviews7 followers
August 3, 2022
This book made me very angry. Then it made me so, so sad. I cried. It is one of the best books I have ever read. 5 stars aren't enough.
Profile Image for Linda.
152 reviews91 followers
January 22, 2022
Beautifully written characters,plot, language. Tho it is nothing like the Book Thief...it is hauntingly beautiful as is the Book Thief. I loved it.
Profile Image for Jeanette.
3,387 reviews581 followers
October 23, 2019
This is one of the very few YA level books that I'm glad I read in the last 5 years. This one is 3.5 stars and I rounded it up because there are SO FEW in this category which hold any water anymore. They all seem like nearly empty angst jugs or something. And also they're messy. IMHO, this genre holds both poor writing and/or any lack of meaningful depth which isn't a by product of high melodrama any more. This book is an exception.

It's rather overall not only a poignant family carving but also a morality tale for a coming of age conscience. It cores about how Annabelle's value system evolves, morphs. Easy read with many nature world descriptions. It holds tons of practical applications copy too. Kids knew 100's then that are never learned outside of a tech device application now.

Know as little as possible about any aspects before reading this. Do NOT read all these synopsis type reviews. But know that this is quite pertinent to that time and place. My childhood not more than a decade or two after this, as well- quite similar. Time was not spent in "free spaces" but had chores of constant habitual practice. Some of them were absolutely assigned, but others were such that if you didn't complete them, you (the child yourself) would be the big loser. There were NOT material substances that appeared and were used without you having some part of preparing or fixing or cleaning etc. yourself before you "got" them- only very rarely. It wasn't only farm kids. City kids even more at times. My Dad got up before dawn everyday for paper routes and coal shoveling, ice deliveries- for instance.

Annabelle is an 11 years old and a well thought and highly intelligent human. I've known lots of Annabelles over the years. They are core to structure and community, IMHO. I didn't find her outlier at all. She could have been any of 20 girls very similar to her at that age in my own life.

I would have given this a 5 star for the first 1/2 of the book alone. But I found the last parts went too, too Dickens on me. With shining saints and devious evil devils of just desserts.

But it was a great read- I couldn't put it down. So hard to get real meaning toward/for onus and good intent into the YA stories any more! And this DID do that. Without being a unrealistic Aesop's Fable or strongly religious tract based aside. Or one that is all about identity or emotions of the young person. This encompasses more than that- it's a study for group "reaction" beyond the feeling individual. It's never just about our own feelings in reality, IMHO. If that does become the "norm"- then some cognition is "off".

This is one of the only books I've read in eons that had anything before 1940 realistic for kids' druthers. Especially kids who grew up between wars or during World Wars in which they viewed so many veterans of every state of "affect" or aftermath. We definitely did.
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