Review: Into the Wilderness

Posted: February 20, 2015 by in Books We Like (4/5 single_star) Meta: Mandy Hager, Dystopian SF, Young Adult

In 2013’s THE CROSSING (EBR Review), Maryam discovered she’d been lied to her entire life. That the Apostles weren’t who they said they were and that the native women taken to the ship were being treated like slaves. Determined to escape the injustices, Maryam makes a plan, and with the help of her newfound friend Joseph they do–with two unexpected companions in tow.

Now, in INTO THE WILDERNESS (Amazon), Maryam and Joseph cross the sea in search of a new home, but nothing goes according to plan.

The story continues where it left off in CROSSING, with Joseph, Maryam, Ruth, and Lazarus sailing away from Onwere to find freedom. They don’t really know what they’re doing, and their basic navigation skills are barely enough to get them to an island, which turns out to be abandoned. Joseph’s illness worsens. Maryam and Lazarus don’t get along at all. And Ruth’s religious zeal hasn’t lessened despite her experience among the Apostles.

WILDERNESS follows the natural progression and consequences of the choices the foursome make, Hager doesn’t hold back on their challenges and struggles. The entire book was an exhausting, tension-filled progression of events that makes you feel sorry for our cast. They discover that the outside world is as bad as the one where they lived with the Apostles. Each person learns good and bad things about themselves, sometimes initiating changes in behavior and attitude. All of these things make this novel a much more solid story than book 1, CROSSING.

INTO THE WILDERNESS follows THE CROSSING as Maryam discovers that there's more to the world than she's been told. An enjoyable and solid read.

My biggest complaint about CROSSING was my suspension of belief surrounding the cult-like following of the Church of the Lamb. Since in WILDERNESS our protagonists leave Onwere, that story is put on backburner and instead they have to respond to events and make hard choices. I did have some trouble with the set-up of the colonies they find later (especially the prisons), but that’s more to do with my personal preferences than it actually being a problem with the plot/story. You see, Hager addresses themes of race and survival that are disturbing, and I admit they made me squirm. Another complaint from CROSSING that improves in WILDERNESS is the too-flowery prose. Hager scales it back a bit here, and the flow is much easier to read as a result, Maryam’s PoV narration felt more realistic–even if she sometimes has over-the-top reactions to things, which I suppose I should attribute to her being a teenager. Compared to another recent YA dystopia book I read, WASTELAND (EBR Review), this series is not only more realistic, but the characters behave consistently and in understandable ways.

Since most of the book is spent with the foursome on a boat in the ocean, readers won’t feel solidly grounded for the setting (especially the colonies and why they are the way they are) and situation in which they find themselves. For sure you’ll want to read CROSSING before reading WILDERNESS, because it would be difficult to understand where Maryam and the others are coming from, even if Hager does a good job of bridging the two books, reminding readers of what came before. Another problem with it being set in a boat was the pacing was sometimes slow. Certain events must happen before they reach their destination, and Hager takes her time in the telling, despite knowing the change of pace arrival will cause. This makes it feel like a two-part book, and is a little awkward in the pacing as a result.

In all, WILDERNESS is a better book than CROSSING. It’s definitely a series for YA dystopia fans out there.

  • Recommended Age: 14+
  • Language: Very little
  • Violence: Not much
  • Sex: Teenage hormones and a description of a past rape

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