Review: Wolf Hollow is my favorite children's book of 2016. Set against the backdrop of World War II, eleven-year-old Annabelle lives in a rural Pennsylvania community in 1943. While the war rages on outside of her town, her life is mostly peaceful until Betty Glengarry's arrival. Betty is cruel and threatening and thrives on inflicting pain. She is virtually a sociopath with zero empathy and has selected Annabelle to be her victim. At first, Annabelle is slightly comforted to know that Toby is watching out for her. Toby is a local vagabond, a World War I veteran of few words who has become something like a friend of Annabelle's family. We don't know much about Toby though there are discussions that he is suffering from post traumatic stress disorder from the war as indicated by carrying firearms around with him and is likely to be unstable.
As Betty's violent malice grows, she successfully makes herself become the innocent victim while placing the blame on others particularly on a kind German man and Toby. One day Betty goes missing and Toby immediately becomes the prime suspect in her disappearance. Gossip ranging from Toby aloofness to him possibly being a pedophile is spread among the community. Annabelle is sure of Toby's innocence and is determined to prove it.
The story of Wolf Hollow is powerful, complex, and relevant. As Annabelle grows, she loses her childish naïveté in a life-altering way. She begins to see the various spectrum of people in her community from those who are plainly cruel without any purpose, courageously kind people, and those who simply pass the gossip without seeking the truth and analyzing it. The witch hunt of tracking down Toby reminded me of The Crucible and his character is much like Boo Bradley in To Kill a Mockingbird. Thematically, this book raises some of the same issues as To Kill a Mockingbird, but with social status rather than racism as the basis for injustice. Despite the darker overtones in the book, the heart of this story is ultimately one of hope and empathy. There is plenty to discuss and talk about with this book and it would be an excellent choice for a book club pick for younger readers.
Rating: 4.5 stars
Words of Caution: There are scenes of bullying with one incident being particularly violent. Recommended for Grades 5 and up.
If you like this book try: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Revolution by Deborah Wiles,