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Publisher's Summary

In this darkly funny, striking debut, a highly unusual young woman must venture into the woods at the edge of her home to remove a curse that has plagued the women in her family for millennia - an utterly original novel with all the mesmerizing power of The Tiger’s Wife, The Snow Child, and Swamplandia!

Cursed. Maisie Cothay has never known the feel of human flesh: born with the power to kill or resurrect at her slightest touch, she has spent her childhood sequestered in her family’s manor at the edge of a mysterious forest. Maisie’s father, an anthropologist who sees her as more experiment than daughter, has warned Maisie not to venture into the woods. Locals talk of men disappearing within, emerging with addled minds and strange stories. What he does not tell Maisie is that for over a millennium her female ancestors have also vanished into the wood, never to emerge - for she is descended from a long line of cursed women.

But one day Maisie’s father disappears, and Maisie must venture beyond the walls of her carefully constructed life to find him. Away from her home for the very first time, she encounters a strange world filled with wonder and deception. Yet the farther she strays, the more the woods calls her home. For only there can Maisie finally reckon with her power and come to understand the wildest parts of herself.

©2018 Julia Fine (P)2018 HarperAudio

Critic Reviews

“Delightful and darkly magical. Julia Fine has written a beautiful modern myth, a coming-of-age story for a girl with a worrisome power over life and death. I loved it.”  (Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Fantastic!

This was the dark and sinuous fantasy novel I have been looking for. It has the tinge of science fiction and a focus on death, but sprawls out into the past like a good fairy tale. If you liked The Book of Lost Things or Katherine Arden’s work you’ll love this too!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Overall pretty good

What should be wild has a very interesting and unique storyline and Julia Fine was very descriptive. The story though felt very under developed and did not flow very well. I wish there had been more background and more of a plot. The entire book I was waiting to understand what the point was and that was a little frustrating. The ending was quite anticlimactic but with that being said, I think the concept of this book was great.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Not Sure What to Make of This...

I'm not even sure where to begin. When I saw this book and read the description, I couldn't purchase it fast enough. I thought it was going to be a supernatural coming-of-age. I love supernatural coming-of-age books! But that's not what this was. I'm not entirely sure *what* this was, and I'm not convinced the author was 100% sure, either.

I guess I'll start with the setting. For a good portion of this book, I assumed the present action took place in the late 19th or, at the latest, early 20th century, just because of the dialogue. But there are modern cars, and computers, so it must take place in modern times. Which means that the dialogue is just incredibly stilted. No modern person talks the way characters talk in this book. At one point, a young child--like, a 5-year-old--uses the phrase, 'it's only fitting.' What 5-year-old talks like that? It made no sense.

I also just didn't feel like I had much of a grasp on *where* this story takes place. Based on the history of Maisie's family home, I would assume it must be somewhere in Europe, yet the entire story is narrated in flat American accents (more on the narration later). It's an odd choice. And then there are no real indications of setting in the text at all. I don't think we ever get so much as a description of the weather. What we know is that there is a manor, a wood, a village, and a city. And at some point there's a river. Where these things even are in relation to each other gets murky.

This book was also very weirdly and very explicitly erotic. First of all, the author seems to have an obsession with breasts. A female character could not exist in this story long without her breasts and/or nipples being described at some point. It was very noticeable and very strange. I'm not offended by breasts, but I did begin to wonder why women's and girls' chests were such a large part of this story. Oftentimes it was comical because it didn't fit and didn't make sense. At one point, I think the author refers to a character's breasts growing and shrinking, basically for no reason, as if that's a thing breasts do independent of pregnancy or weight loss/gain. Like, what? What's wrong with her? What's happening?

There is also a lot of graphic sex. I thought, from the description, that I was getting a YA-ish coming-of-age/fantasy. This was not that. There is a ton of graphic sex in this book, and, again, I struggled to figure out why it was there. I think the author was trying to incorporate the themes of femininity and female sexuality. All of that is great, but the author never actually *says* anything about it. She just threw in a bunch of breasts and masturbation and, I don't know, thought that was edgy or something? It was like the author was yelling 'boobs' into a crowded room and then sitting back and smugly waiting for people to be offended. But I'm mostly just confused.

The description of this book indicates that it's darkly comic. It was, for the first half. But then it seemed to lose its sense of humor, and maybe also the plot. The second half of this book descends for a while into nauseating gore. I had to skip ahead over some parts, and that's honestly not even something I do. Just be forewarned--it gets very graphic in more ways than one. Fine is heavy-handed, almost to the point of insulting her readers, and while her language can be lovely, it seems forced--there are several instances of metaphors not quite making sense, and descriptions bordering on ridiculous in their clunkiness. The characters are often caricatures and stereotypes. It had the feel of a YA novel with a bunch of gore and sex thrown in.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Stunning debut!

This amazing debut novel from Julia Fine is a feminist fairytale with one of the most unique main characters you'll ever see. Both actresses were great as well. 5 stars!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Strange and haunting

Lyrical and lovely - an interesting story. The narrator for the girl used a voice that was a bit challenging at first but the choice made sense and I’m glad I stuck with it. I struggle with torture and animal abuse in stories - but otherwise love this dark fairytale world.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Slow. Not worth it.

This book is so slow. I was "reading" it for a book club but I gave up halfway through because other people were saying that the ending wasn't good enough to justify the struggle to get to the end. Sad too because the summary had me very intrigued.

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Better prepare for a new journey...

The audiobook for What Should Be Wild brought me into Coeurs Crossing and the wood near Urizon, allowing me to experience the novel as if I was present for the events. The narration brings the voices of Maisie and the other Blakely women to life. The story is, at times, suspenseful, witty, moving, and empowering. I identify as male and still feel that this story dominated by women is relatable to my experiences. Highly recommend you listen to the audiobook of What Should Be Wild.

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What is original, should be good?

I did enjoy this story. Some of the imagery and premise were very original.
The story progresses very fast to the point that some important parts are glossed over. I wouldn’t have wanted a longer story.
The narrators of the book were cast well. Easy to listen to.
I think everyone has a different expectation for a story involving witchcraft.