The Beloved Wild

320p. Feiwel & Friends. Mar. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250132796.
Gr 7 Up—Life in Middleton, NH, in 1809 is not easy. Sixteen-year-old Harriet Winter and her siblings must till the land, chop the wood, make clothing, and endure the long, harsh winters. When her neighbor, Daniel Long, shows an interest in her, willful Harriet toughens herself against his kind gestures. As she watches his attention turn toward the fancy Goodrich sisters, she becomes resentful and makes the rash decision to leave home with her stepbrother, who is journeying to Western New York, where he plans to take part in the pioneering movement. Once on the road, Harriet chops off her hair and disguises herself as a boy in order to avoid the perceived limitations of her gender. Her adventure introduces her to a colorful cast of people, shocking human behavior, and unexpected mishaps. Nineteenth-century New England is beautifully depicted through straightforward prose, giving readers an accurate sense of life during this period. Landscapes of rolling streams, dense forests, and blistery snow are backdrops to a narrative in which a charismatic protagonist recounts her daily experiences and the questions she has about her life. Harriet's modern flair for feminism adds a welcome departure from the patriarchal themes that dominate this era. Reminiscent of the works by Laura Ingalls Wilder, this charming novel is an enjoyable reflection on women's roles, romance, and the power of choice.
VERDICT A worthy addition to middle school and high school libraries.

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