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Wild Things
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
In WILD THINGS, protagonist Zoe no longer trusts anyone. Both her parents have now left her; her father left at an early age, and now her mother, an irresponsible mother and slob, has died. As a result of her traumatic, unbelievably self-sufficient childhood, Zoe trusts only herself.

To begin, Zoe goes to live with her uncle, Dr. Henry Royster, a surgeon. In his house she finds massive sharp metal sculptures dangling in a room, as she finds out her uncle is a famed sculptor. Though reluctant to trust Henry because everyone else in her life has failed her, Zoe finds much in common with him, especially their equally broken hearts.

All the while, Zoe meets a cast of friendly, curious characters who are loyal to Henry and begin to mend her heart, along with a wise cat and a mystical boy in the nearby forest. Zoe's curiosity, as she explores the woods, leads to adventure, heroism, and more as she unmasks the boy's identity, defiles a local lie, and more through her Wild Spirit. The tale of WILD THINGS is a wondrous page-turner.

What a phenomenal debut book by Ms. Carmichael. Throughout the story, I was stunned by the depth of the characters, and how I truly connected with many of them. My favorite part was the added perspective of the narrative of the wild cat, which adds an excellent dimension to this book. Carmichael, inspired by her actual husband, also a metal artist, skillfully weaves this story and interesting characters together to create the masterpiece that is WILD THINGS.

A must-read for all readers!

Reviewed by: Andrew S. Cohen
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 19, 2009
Wild Things is an amazing, well-written book, as engaging and thoughtful a read for adults as for children. Clay Carmichael does a fantastic job with character development, and I highly recommend this novel for all ages.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 2, 2010
I was immediately engrossed in this novel about a young girl raised by a mentally ill mother and a succession of boyfriends. When her mother commits suicide before the start of the book, she is adopted by an uncle she didn't even know existed, a relative on her father's side of the family. This uncle is a world-famous heart surgeon and sculptor (an unusual combination but utterly believable in this context) who like our protagonist, Zoe, has a broken heart, having lost his beloved wife to cancer. Adding to the mix are a number of eccentric characters, in the tradition of novels such as Because of Winn Dixie, including a stray cat who Zoe somewhat predictably tames by the end of the novel. We see the story both through Zoe's eyes and through the eyes of the cat, who observes everything going on in the small town. The Wild Things referred to in the title applies to a variety of multi-layered characters in the novel, including a mysterious albino fawn, a strange boy who lurks in the woods, Zoe's uncle's strange sculptures, and Zoe herself. This is a perfect book for those who enjoyed stories of prickly young girls such as The Great Gilly Hopkins.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Eleven-year-old Zoe trusts no one. Her father left before she was born. Her irresponsible mother left her mostly on her own. When her mother suddenly dies, Zoe goes to live with her uncle, former surgeon and famed metal sculptor, Dr. Henry Royster. She's sure Henry will fail her as everyone else has.

After having more step-dad's than she can remember, Zoe is pretty sure she has most guys figured out. They hang around until they have no use for you anymore or their just plain tired of being around you. With her uncle Henry's gruff demeanor, she hasn't quite figured out which one will have her packing first. The thing is, every time Zoe thinks she has Henry figured out he does something to surprise her, something nice and thoughtful. Plus, there are all a lot of people who like Henry. His handyman Fred and his wife Bessie, the local sheriff, and even the Padre from the local church. There is plenty of verbal sparring as both Henry and Zoe learn to trust each other, neither of them willing to have their hearts broken again. As the story progresses you can truly see through actions more than words how they are slowing healing each other and becoming closer and closer each day.

Zoes real adventure begins when she finds an abandoned cabin in the woods that looks like someone used to live there and left it filled with some of their most prized possessions. Every time she heads to the cabin she senses someone, or something out there and a few times catches a glimpse of a pure white, ghost-like doe traipsing throught the forest. When Zoe finds the doe and the wild child of a boy holding her, both staring down the barrell of a shotgun, she puts herself between the pair and the hunter staring them down. Who is this boy and what does he have to do with the cabin in the woods?

I found this story very endearing. Zoe is smart as a whip, with an attitude to back it up! When her and Henry are together you can sense how much they need each other despite both their attempts to deny it. In a spiral of unparalleled happiness Zoe, who has grown close to all the adults around her despite knowing better, comes to face the fact she has never really truly loved another human being before, not even her mother. Through out the book there are various passages written in the perspective of a feral cat that Zoe is trying to prove her trustworthiness too, obviously symbolic of the relationship between Zoe and Henry.

This is a great book for middle school and even upper elementary. Zoe's adventures and mystery of the wild child in the woods will keep them guessing. Read on!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 27, 2010
A stray cat. An orphaned pre-teen girl. A heart surgeon turned metal sculptor. A young boy rejected by his domineering father. A wild homeless boy and his albino deer. Mix these all together and what do you have? If you're author/illustrator Clay Carmichael, then you have the beautiful 2010 ALA Notable book, Wild Things. Some books are meant to be savored, read slowly and enjoyed page by page. This is one of them.

The story is about kindred spirits who are in some way, in need of home and family. The cat, Mr. C'mere, senses that Zo', unlike other humans, can be trusted. In turn, Zo', who has been burned one too many times in her not quite-twelve-year-old life, learns to trust her Uncle Henry (the former heart surgeon). Henry Royster opens his home to a niece he has never met before, thus softening his own grief-torn heart. Zo''s nemesis, Hargrove, turns out to be a very different person than she first imagines, about the same time that she discovers a half-brother (Wil) and someone special he has named "Sister."

This isn't a book with every loose end wrapped up neatly with a "they all lived happily together" ending. But it is a book about acceptance and healing and one that may leave you wondering: Who really are the wild things? And where is the safe place that they might call home?

Read the book and enjoy.

(Recommended for girls and boys, 9-12. Boyds Mill Press, 2009]
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on November 17, 2012
Sometimes you feel like you can trust no one. 11 year old Zoe doesn't feel like that just sometimes, but all the time! Her Dad left her at an early age and her irresponsible mother died. With both parents gone, Zoe is left to go to different relatives, staying for short amounts of time until they discard of her like a used tissue. Usually they will pretend to care about her until they ship her off to the next relative. So naturally Zoe thinks it will be the same routine when she is placed with a little known relative named Uncle Henry. However, she is surprised to find that Uncle Henry won't give up on her and that they share many things in common. Both stubborn and hotheaded, they can sometimes clash but they also share broken hearts. Unknowingly, they start to pick up each other's pieces and start to create a loving home.

Along the way, Zoe meets many other interesting characters including a wild cat, a white deer, and a mysterious boy. Zoe's curiosity and wild spirit lead her to finding the identity of the boy, and she uncovers the truth about a local lie. This book had a spirit of its own and I loved reading each wondrous page. I was amazed at the depth of the characters and how I was able to connect with each of them. I also thought it was interesting how the author added narration from the cat's perspective. If you like adventure and humor books, I highly recommend this. It's a great book for all ages. I look forward to reading this author's future works.
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VINE VOICEon January 31, 2012
I picked this novel up this morning for my daughter, who selected it as one of the books she will read for her school's Battle of the Books. It was sitting on the table when I ate lunch, so I turned to the first page. Two hours later I finished the book, and I'd shed some tears on the way. Other reviewers have covered the plot points, so I'll just add why I'm giving an excellent book four stars instead of five. The problem is that the mother is constantly described as irresponsible, and the author even introduces a deus ex machina sort of character who arrives late in the story with no real purpose except to make sure Zoe knows she is better off without her mother (and to fix a motorcycle). No one could argue that the mother wasn't a negative influence, but she was something else, too -- mentally ill. Much is made of the fact that her mother didn't take her medicine and wasn't responsible, but blaming a bi-polar person for not being responsible is another kind of crazy. I kept waiting for Zoe, who is so compassionate with animals, to understand that mental illness is an illness rather than a lazy choice, but it never happened. To a lesser extent I was also bothered by similarities between this book and "The White Giraffe," another excellent book about an orphaned girl who has a gift of being able to communicate with animals and meets a white giraffe whom she saves from poachers with a boy in her class. There are some additional similarities, but you get the picture.
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on May 29, 2015
What a truly wonderful book! I am an animal lover and once again, Clay Carmichael has written a novel with a cat as one of the main characters. Zoe is an amazing, intelligent, sharp-witted, child who suddenly finds she is to be living with an Uncle Henry she has never seen or met. Raising herself since she was young (her mother was crazy and drug addicted), Zoe has learned to survive on her own and not to get attached to the many men in and out of her mother's lives. What I liked about Zoe is that she did credit those men friends with her ability to drive, pace bets, count; street smarts that help her in life. But when she meets her Uncle Henry who is very angry, Zoe sees herself in him- especially the red hair, thorny personality, and the split in their front teeth. I loved the way Carmichael uses the cat to tell us about the area around Uncle Henry's house with the woods and fields- great for exploring. The cat has lived and seen much and it is this history that provides suspense and understanding for the reader. I loved so many of the characters- the Sheriff, Bessie, Wil, Sister, Fred and Maud- it was just as easy to dislike others like Ray and the Mayor. A wonderful tale of what it means to become a family, to be an animal lover and live life like Wild Things:) I loved this very appropriate title as I read more and more of the book - highly recommended! Teens and adults will enjoy Zoe's journey!!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 25, 2010
Honestly could not write a review about this product as it was given as a gift. I will say it put a smile on my wifes face and well to me that's "priceless
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on November 5, 2010
I'm a huge fan of YA, having read 71 out of 88 Newbery Gold Medal winners that have been awarded since 1922. Clay Carmichael's "Wild Things" is a true heart story and has earned a place "at the feet" of Gold Medal master storytellers and their works that have preceded her, including "The Tale of Despereaux" (DiCamillo, 2004), "A Year Down Yonder" (Peck, 2001), "Bud, Not Buddy" (Curtis, 2000), "Holes" (Sacher, 1999), "Mrs. Frisbee and the Rats of NIMH" (O'Brien, 1972), and, of course the Japanese tale, "The Cat Who Went to Heaven" (Coatsworth, 1931). That she did not place in the 2010 awards is a mystery, but may be due to being a new YA writer on the block. Not to worry, E.B. White was passed over for the Gold in 1953, so Ms. Carmichael is in good company!
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