Sunday, February 23, 2014

Into That Forest

Into That Forest
(Image from its goodreads page)
Louis Nowra

Becky and Hannah are on a family trip (Hannah’s family, anyhow) when a flood catches them off guard. Though Hannah’s parents are killed, the two girls survive and are found by Tasmanian Tigers. The tigers, having lost their pups, take Becky and Hannah in as their own. Soon the girls forget their language and assume the life of a tiger.

Wow. Horrid description I just wrote, but there it is.

Before we start, for the poor, uneducated not Australian readers, I’ll clear up a few things. First of all, the narrator (Hannah) almost always refers to Tasmanian Tigers as just “tigers”. No, this is not the big stripey cat that goes on adventures with Calvin and somesuch. It means Thylacine, which went extinct in 1936. Google Thylacine, it’ll make this book make much more sense. The tigers aren’t described much.

May I also clear up that the main part of this book is set sometime in the early twentieth century. In case that concerns you. It concerns me. I’m very concerned. Extraordinarily so. I was duped into thinking this wasn’t a historical. I am horribly wounded.

Finally, I want you all to know that this kind of pushes the limits of a YA book. The main character at her oldest in the book is 10, but it is... themey. I wouldn't recommend this for anyone
under sixteen.

A couple trigger warnings for the book: Mentions of almost-rape and suicide.

From the warnings onto the review.

Despite being an extremely short book for the number of plot points in it, the timing and execution were wonderful. The plot, even if it seemed kind of run-of-the-mill (child[ren] gets lost in wilderness, they're raised by animals), had an air of originality to it. I'm not exactly an expert on the trope, though, so I actually have no idea how original it really was.

The format was a little odd, since it's being told by Hannah when she's 76. Her grammar is also a bit weird (read: horrible) because she had to relearn her English later on. It can catch you up if you don't learn to ignore it, which usually starts on the third page after picking up the book.

I'm going to have to repeat what I said in an earlier review about a different book. It didn't scream at me that if I put the book down I would die a horrible death at a random time. However, I definitely didn't regret picking it up. There weren't any chapter breaks, which was kind of irritating at first, but I think it actually made it a bit better. If the scenes were actually separated, I'd probably put it down and forget about it, whispering to myself it's okay, you'll remember where you were- really. This is the fate of uncountable books of mine.

So, checking in on what the goodreaders think (I do that occasionally, it's like being transported into a mystical world where everyone is right and wrong at the same time), I'm surprised about what people thought about the emotions in the book. Personally, I'm thinking I'm either really, really, not emotional, or everyone else is wrong. I lean towards the latter. I didn't find the book particularly heartrending. I found the parts where it was supposed to be, and even cried at some of them, but overall? Not really. It was like there was a veil of apathy from the narration, a quick assuring of "But I guess that's just how it happened, its okay."

No matter how unemotional it was, I did feel a connection with the characters. Becky and Hannah were polar opposites at the beginning of the book (Becky was a little lady and Hannah was a little monster), but grow into more interesting, well-developed characters as the story progresses.

I don't usually delve into my social justice warrior side during reviews, but I'm going to bring it up now because I can and no one is going to stop me. I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on Australia and what goes on in it (other than killer trees, octopi that can and will kill you, and something called the frickn' sea wasp), but from any viewpoint the book was less than politically correct. First off, the main character (SPOILERS) almost gets raped, and its treated like, yeah, that happened or whatever. What the heck. Nah, just near sexual assault, nothing wrong here. It's never even mentioned after it happened.

Along with that, the Aboriginal people of Australia are always referred to as "the black fellas". Okay, I get it's the 1930s and whatnot, but really? I don't want to speak for others, but the light they're painted in isn't the greatest, either. And do not say, "It's the 1930s! It was just being realistic for the time period!" You can write historicals without being 100000000% accurate on everything that's being said. Especially when sounding like a semi-decent person is at stake. Unless it's Regency era England. People will find the slightest details ("THE WORD 'SLEAZE' WASN'T IN USE AT THAT TIME OMG DO YOUR RESEARCH") and run with it for those.


Uh. Ignore that, if you wish. Occasionally I just need to rant.

Ignoring those two issues, the writing style was actually really interesting. It was descriptive enough to know what was going, but not excessive. It was largely simple speak, almost bordering on beige prose. It pulled it off, though. It sounded more genuine than boring.

The ending was bittersweet. It was interesting and a good way to end, saying what happened after the book instead of making the rest of us yell at inanimate objects in hopes they'll tell us their secrets. At the same time, though, I kind of wish there was a little bit more after (SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER) Becky died.

Overall, decent book, would read again if I had to.


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