It's an oppressively hot and sticky morning in June when Sterling and her brother, Phin, have an argument that compels him to run into the town swamp -- the one that strikes fear in all the residents of Sticks, Louisiana. Phin doesn't return. Instead, a girl named Lenora May climbs out, and now Sterling is the only person in Sticks who remembers her brother ever existed.
Sterling needs to figure out what the swamp's done with her beloved brother and how Lenora May is connected to his disappearance -- and loner boy Heath Durham might be the only one who can help her.
Sticks, Louisiana is home to the meanest swamp in the state. It is a creature with a mind all its own. It is a place where things that go bump in the night, actually do exist. The town itself is surrounded by a fence to keep the swamp at bay and people from wandering into it. If you enter the swamp, you won't be coming home any time soon.
"Don’t mind the swamp and it won’t mind you."
16-year old Sterling "Sass" Saucier's brother Phineas goes missing after an argument. Phin is Sterling's rock, and protector, and has kept her safe when their father turned abusive. Hours later, a girl by the name of Lenora May walks out of the swamp, and all memories of Phin's existence fade away.
“When the swamp took my brother, it sent someone—something else to take his place. I don’t know what Lenora May is, but she’s not my sister.”
Nobody remembers Phin, not even his own family. His memories have been replaced by Lenora's. Phin's life experiences become Lenora's. When the Sheriff refuses to send anyone into the swamp to find Phin, Sterling takes the bull by the horn. Sterling is the only one who knows the truth and refuses to accept that Lenora is her "sister" and makes every attempt to find a way to bring her brother back.
I will say that the one thing that holds this story together is Sterling. She is strong, determined, and never wavers in her determination to bring Phin back from the swamp. Sterling also suffers from an eating disorder thanks to stress relating to Phin leaving for college. I think Parker's portrayal of a character with an eating disorder was well written, and not overdone, or made to seem like it was cool.
Sterling's one true ally happens to be a boy who she had thought as a possible love interest: Heath Durham. But, Heath has problems all his own, and his belief in Sterling comes with positives and negatives. Heath has had a similair experience with losing someone close to him that left him thought of as a drug-addict and trouble by the residents of Sticks. Heath isn't necessarily a strong character like Sterling, but he doesn't run away when things get too hot.
I think we as readers often times look at things a little too obsessively. Lenora was in no way shape or form a changeling or a bad person. She's just a girl who made the wrong choices in the past, and is now paying for them by being forever bound to the swamp. In the end, I could absolutely see Sterling feeling a connection to Lenora, and not wanting her to go away.
Beware the Wild is an impressive debut from Natalie Parker. It is a bit dark, and mysterious and captures the realism of a small southern town where residents aren't all that well off. The story also captures the fact that small towns have a long way to go before racial equality is a reality.
Author - Natalie C. Parker
Title - Beware the Wild
Released by HarperTeen
Published: October 21, 2014
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal
Format: E-Book, 336 pages