Wandering Wild

304p. ebook available. Sky Pony. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781510704008.
Gr 9 Up—Sixteen-year-old Tal and her 15-year-old brother Wen are Wanderers: moving from town to town and living off the grid, they are essentially parentless and live by the rules of their fellow rovers. They subsist by running cons and scams on various "markies"—townies who are easy marks or targets. Tal loves her free-spirited way of life and has little to no regrets about her felonious methods, until she meets Spencer Sway, a markie her own age who has his own secrets. This, coupled with an impending arranged marriage at age 18 to a fellow Wanderer, leads to an awakening of sorts for Tal, who now begins to imagine a life free of the Wanderers. Still adverse to school, a nine-to-five job, or any other form of imposed structure, Tal yearns to continue to roam, but on her own terms rather than those of the Wanderers. But trying to break free from the Wanderers while at the same time protecting Wen proves to be a challenge that Tal might not yet be ready to face. Taylor keeps the narrative moving at a good pace with believable dialogue and a bit of suspense. The unique setting of the somewhat squalid Wanderer camp, especially when juxtaposed with the comfort of Spencer's home, is thought provoking. Despite her life of grift, readers will root for Tal and her nascent moral compass.
VERDICT A very enjoyable debut featuring an appealing protagonist in unusual circumstances; add to coming-of-age collections.

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