Friday, January 27, 2023

Today's read... Wolfwood by Marianna Baer

The cover caught my attention on today's read. It circles around the world of art, and a girl's reals struggles to discover herself in a difficult situation with a sick mother. Now, I'm not the most avid reader of contemporary and 'serious' tales, but this one takes a bit of a fantastical dive, which I'm assuming will border on magical realism. And it includes jungles and monsters. So, I'm curious to see how it all comes together.

by Marianna Baer
Young Adult Magical Realism
384 pagesg

MARCH 28th!!!

A teenage girl begins secretly forging paintings, plunging her into a dark and dangerous imaginary world
Indigo and her mother, once-famous artist Zoe Serra, have barely been scraping by since her mom's breakdown. When a gallery offers Zoe a revival show for her unfinished blockbuster series, Wolfwood, Indigo knows it's a crucial chance to finally regain stability. Zoe, however, mysteriously refuses. Desperate not to lose the opportunity, Indigo secretly takes up the brush herself.
It turns out, there might be a very good reason her mother wants nothing to do with Wolfwood.
Painting submerges Indigo into Wolfwood itself—a dangerous jungle where an army of grotesque, monstrous flora are in a violent battle with a band of girls. As Indigo enters Wolfwood again and again, the line between fantasy and reality blurs. It's a tenuous balancing act: keeping her forgery secret and her mind lucid, all while fighting her attraction to Kai, the son of the gallery owner.
And by the time Indigo realizes the true nature of the monsters she's up against, it might be too late—and the monsters might just win.


A harsh reality mixes with desperation, the art world, and violent, monstrous fantasy to create a unique experience on a journey of self-discovery.

Zoe can't believe her ears, when the art gallery's owner explains she can sell Zoe's mother's paintings for almost $100,000 a piece. After living in a run-down basement with barely enough food to survive while working two jobs, going to school, and repairing the apartments above them, it's a dream come true. But Zoe soon discovers that her mother hasn't painted the rest of the Wolfwood series and refuses to without reason...and that with even more building debt than Zoe even knew. Zoe's desperate, but she doesn't realize what monsters are hiding behind the story Wolfwood portrays...ones which are out for blood.

Zoe's rough life in poverty smashes full force into the high-class world of art, buyers, and galleries. She's been working two jobs to pay the bills, while her mother suffers heavily from depression and other unaddressed mental issues. Zoe's attitude isn't as negative as one might think, but she does wish there was a way to, at least, lighten the load and earn some real meals. It's hard not to feel for her, especially since she doesn't have any lofty desires. Despite the problems, her relationship with her mother is very good. There are some understandable arguments and misunderstandings, but the love between them is golden.

When Zoe hits the rich world, her desire to somewhat fit in builds one aspect of the plot. She tries to hide her situation, but at the same time, doesn't grow obsessed with reaching the same status...which I appreciated. Her goals stay on pulling her and her mother out of their situation. She makes some bad decisions, but even these are understandable. Even the romance end, which taps constantly on her door, plays in the background as her main goal never waivers. So, there isn't a love at first sight or even heavy concentration on this like is found in many young adult novels. It's there, adds a nice subplot, but doesn't overwhelm.

The gem in this tale comes with the whirl of Wolfwood's fantasy with Zoe's reality. Wolfwood has a very heavy story behind it, one which rotates around Zoe's mother. Zoe has no clue about what truly inspired the series, but when she paints, she's drawn into the very violent, plant-eating world with a group of girls, she's determined to save. These scenes are packed with danger and tension of a very different kind. The tale switches back and forth between Zoe's reality and the one in the paintings. Plus, the mother's own history slides in little by little in its own, shorter chapters. It never grows confusing and is very well laid out, so as to lure the reader in little by little. There were a few moments, where I found myself skimming, but it was more out of curiosity of what would happen next than boredom.

The ending leaves some questions unanswered, but I assume that's the intent. This is a tale, which calls food for thought. The ending is heart-wrenching in several ways, and yet, satisfying, too. 

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