Saturday, August 09, 2008

REVIEW: Into the Forest

Title: Into the Forest
Author: Jean Hegland
Protagonist: 17-year-old Nell
Setting: northern California redwood forest, sometime in the near future
Rating: A+

First Line: It's strange, writing these first words, like leaning down into the musty stillness of a well and seeing my face peer up from the water--so small and from such an unfamiliar angle I'm startled to realize the reflection is my own.

18-year-old Eva wants to be a dancer, and she has talent. 17-year-old Nell wants to be accepted into Harvard. But while they're being homeschooled in a house 32 miles from the nearest town and four miles from the nearest neighbor, things begin to happen. The electricity goes out. Mail stops being delivered. There are vague rumors of looting and violence that have completely broken down civil order. Lots of people get sick and die, and finally there's no more gas for trips to and from town. Eva and Nell's world shrinks even further when their remaining parent dies. The months pass, and the supplies of food in the house dwindle alarmingly. Told to stay out of the forest since they were both very small, Eva and Nell look at the food supply and realize that bears and wild pigs pose less danger than humans. Slowly they make their way into the forest, learning to rely on each other, and the bounty of the forest, to sustain them.

Hegland's writing is very lyrical, and the honesty of her narrator, Nell, is crucial to the story. The only problem I had with this book is a personal one. There would've been no way that I could've been kept out of a redwood forest, no matter what my parents said. To have lived their entire lives in that place and not know about the wildlife and plants boggles my mind. But as I said, I may be the odd one out in this case.

I loved this book, and parts of it will stay with me for a very long time.

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