I cannot believe how long it has taken me to get this review posted! I read this at the height of last year’s busy summer, and since then I’ve had my jumbled thoughts sitting in a draft.
Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker
Published: October 21st 2014 by HarperTeen
Source: ARC from publisher
Genre: young adult paranormal, young adult fantasy
Find: Goodreads | Amazon
Synopsis: It’s an oppressively hot and sticky morning in June when Sterling and her brother, Phin, have an argument that compels him to run into the town swamp — the one that strikes fear in all the residents of Sticks, Louisiana. Phin doesn’t return. Instead, a girl named Lenora May climbs out, and now Sterling is the only person in Sticks who remembers her brother ever existed.
Sterling needs to figure out what the swamp’s done with her beloved brother and how Lenora May is connected to his disappearance — and loner boy Heath Durham might be the only one who can help her.
This debut novel is full of atmosphere, twists and turns, and a swoon-worthy romance.
The allure of Beware the Wild is the atmospheric swamp setting. Readers will feel the heat, sense the danger, and be swept up in the small town dynamics. The swamp and the town are characters in their own right.
By not exploring any subplots, Parker manages to keep the pacing at a breakneck speed. The opening scene when Sterling realizes her brother Phin has disappeared starts off the plot and each scene adds to the tension. Although I would have liked to learn more about Sterling’s eating disorder, abusive father, and other side characters in this creepy Louisiana town, the focus remains on rescuing Phin and discovering what lies in the swamp that steals people and their loved ones memories.
Readers who love outsider, loner boys will appreciate Heath, who is not the boy Sterling’s mother and stepfather want her to be with because they don’t see how sweet he truly is. Their romance is believable and doesn’t distract from the paranormal mystery of what the swamp does to the memories of those living in this backwater Louisiana town if they venture into its depths.
Sterling is a strong girl, but strong in character and dedicated to those she loves, which makes her more relatable and believable than some “strong” characters.
Ultimately, Beware the Wild is as much about dealing with your own guilt, insecurities, and failings as it is with conquering a supernatural force. I look forward to reading anything Natalie C. Parker writes in the future. This is also a good fit for readers who enjoy standalone novels or anyone experiencing series fatigue.
Recommended for fans of: Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore or Compulsion by Martina Boone for the Southern Gothic style, or Fiendish by Brenna Yovanoff for another deliciously dark paranormal story
Sandra at Clear Eyes, Full Shelves: “Parker’s novel rivals any gothic I’ve read. Its unique story captivated me. Her writing creates characters who grow, learn and explore what lies beneath the surface in both the swamp and in their hearts. I highly recommend Beware the Wild for its carefully woven tale and its finely detailed characters–both human and swamp.”
Respiring Thoughts: “In concept and story, Beware the Wild does extremely well, and really distances itself from other YA debuts. Sadly, however, the book lacks a finesse and maturity in terms of execution and writing.”