The Wild Ones - Review
Updated: Aug 4, 2021
*I received this physical copy from Margaret K. McElderry Books. All views are my own*
The Wild Ones by Nafiza Azad is … different. I'm still trying to process all that I've read. Let me start with this: I picked up The Wild Ones because I thought it would be a dumb down version of A Wrinkle in Time that I miserably did not have time for. Do you know how confused I was as a child reading that book and then as an adult watching the movie? WHAT THE HELL WAS OPRAH SUPPOSED TO BE ANYWAY!?
I really thought Azad's forthcoming novel would at least paint a better picture of all this magical sorcery that's happening behind human eyes. Nope. I'm back to square one of confusion, and now I need to take you down the rabbit hole so you can see what I saw. I will not go through this journey alone again!
"Meet the Wild Ones: girls who have been hurt, abandoned, and betrayed all their lives. It all began with Paheli, who was once betrayed by her mother and sold to a man in exchange for a favor. When Paheli escapes, she runs headlong into a boy with stars in his eyes. This boy, as battered as she is, tosses Paheli a box of stars before disappearing.
With the stars, Paheli gains access to the Between, a place of pure magic and mystery. Now, Paheli collects girls like herself and these Wild Ones use their magic to travel the world, helping the hopeless and saving others from the fates they suffered.
Then Paheli and the Wild Ones learn that the boy who gave them the stars, Taraana, is in danger. He’s on the run from powerful forces within the world of magic. But if Taraana is no longer safe and free, neither are the Wild Ones. And that…is a fate the Wild Ones refuse to accept. Ever again."
They say never judge a book by its cover, and of course, the binding is what made me pick up the book! The artwork is stunning! Wild pastel colors of pink, purple, blue, and lots of brown girl magic immediately caught my attention. Alex Cabal did her thing while creating this cover art. I didn't know magic could exist so vividly in a book design. Now that the blurb is over, time to get into the story.
First, let me say, if you can, READ THE PHYSICAL COPY OF THIS BOOK. I got the digital version before I got the physical, and the formatting is horrible. It confuses the setup of how the chapters and subchapters roll into one another.
Getting into the first couple of pages, The Wild Ones starts with a flowery, poetic introduction about the main character, Paheli, and how her story began. For a brief moment, Azad comes out the gates swinging hard before settling back into the varied narrative of the tale. I mention this because I didn't stop thinking about that second paragraph until I was about 80% in the book. If shock value was what Azad was going for, she got it—shocked the hell out of me!
After breezing past Paheli's introduction story, we're introduced to 10 other POVs throughout the fantasy. That's right! There are 11 POVs, all telling the same record. But at least it's a continuation with barely any interruption with side thoughts and missions. It took me a while, but how we're acquainted with each girl was essentially a page break of a journal entry hinting towards why they became a Wild One before diving back into the story. Neither of them (except for Paheli) explains what happened to them in their previous lives, but it is to be understood that these girls are a collection of broken pieces.
With the premise of a "Wild One," I would at least thought we would have seen more tragic stories or at least the group trying to save other girls who were at their wit's end. Instead, we go on an Anthony Bourdain world food tour with them while trying to protect the boy who inadvertently gave them this newfound power to be a Wild One. It's not what I expected from the synopsis.
Once we got to the heart of the story, it made me realize how much fluff I had to trudge through to get here. It's basically a girl and a boy who aren't good with expressing emotions due to trauma, slowly falling for each other as they try to save their world and themselves from doom. That's it. I saved you 300 pages.
Overall I gave this book 2-stars. It was a difficult decision to come to. It wasn't a hard read, but it wasn't easy either. The story's execution didn't sit well with me, and there were way too many POVs and narrative switching. I understand the feminism message Azad placed all over the book about protecting women and their rights, but it was all too much. If we could take out all the flowery notes, the poetry, and the coterie of women, we might have had a decent story.
The Wild Ones debuts August 3, 2021