Top critical review
a somewhat hollow book on bullying
Reviewed in the United States on January 14, 2018
A girl moves to a rural Pennsylvania town in 1943 and starts bullying other girls and boys. Her cruel behavior sets in motion a story that obviously will not end well for at least one person. Lauren Wolk's focused, persistent writing style is what is charming about this book, but her narrative voice is somewhat deceiving, too. While reading the book, I knew Wolk was spinning a story of sadness, cruelty with some redemption, the importance of understanding and kindness to strangers. I felt quite manipulated. I also feel manipulated in all the positive reviews for a book with a depressing story that ends in a way that fairy tales often end, satisfying but unbelievable. I would not recommend this book to any middle grade reader unless I knew them quite well. We live in an age of trigger warnings and this book definitely needs one. All of these adults who love this book should be careful recommending a book that is more for adults thinking back about their childhood (and how they wish they had overcame a bully) than a book for middle grade readers who may be confused by many aspects of this book (a homeless man who lives in a smoke shed, holes to catch wolves, a strict aunt who seems almost like a stereotype). This is one of those books that librarians love but I am not sure if numerous children or young adults readers will like it. Some will, but many will not. Those who do not like the book should not be bullied because their taste is not the same as certain librarians and educators.