Wild Bird
Wild Bird
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Annotation: When her behavior escalates out of control, fourteen-year-old Wren is taken away to a wilderness therapy camp where she is forced to develop new skills, including the courage to ask for help.
Catalog Number: #6547873
Format: Paperback
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Random House
Copyright Date: 2019
Edition Date: 2019
Pages: 311 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: 1-10-194047-6
ISBN 13: 978-1-10-194047-1
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2017297054
Dimensions: 21 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
Loneliness, a bad crowd, and a downward spiral led 14-year-old Wren to this: while on a midnight bender, she's dragged to the airport and shipped off. Wren's parents, concerned for both Wren's health and safety and their own, have sent her to a wilderness therapy camp. Angry and resistant, Wren has no intention of learning how to find water or build a fire, until it becomes apparent that, out here, those skills are essential. Despite herself, Wren is slowly won over by the harsh beauty of the Utah desert and by her fellow campers. The story alternates between Wren's experiences in the desert and her flashbacks to the decisions d friends at led her there. Van Draanen, always versatile, frankly tackles teen drug use and recovery in a book that's less gritty, and often less bleak, than an Ellen Hopkins novel. Ultimately, everything comes together a bit neatly, but for readers who have come to root for Wren out-of-control girl who learns to ask for help at's not such a bad thing.
Kirkus Reviews
In a riveting opening chapter, 14-year-old Wren is roused from sleep at 3:47 a.m., whisked to the airport, and flown to Utah for an 8-week wilderness therapy program—a last-ditch effort by her concerned parents in response to her drug use, lying, shoplifting, and destructive behavior. Initially enraged and blaming everyone, Wren slowly begins to connect with the others in the group and feel some success at mastering building a fire, purifying water, and surviving. She also contemplates her past behavior: running heroin; slashing her father's tires and her sister's clothes; carving a swastika in her mother's cherished piano. She begins to understand what real friends are—unlike those who used and mistreated her—and to consider the kind of person she wants to be. Traditional tales told by Mokov, an elderly Paiute who visits the camp, add dimension to the story, although the appropriation of Native tropes (campers go on a "quest" as a culminating exercise; Wren braids a feather in her hair in imitation of Mokov) is problematic. Wren and her family are evidently white; one of the other campers is identified as African-American. Van Draanen makes palpable both the outer desert landscape and Wren's intense inner emotions. A memorable book about family, friendship, forgiveness, and second chances. (Fiction. 12-16)
Publishers Weekly
Fourteen-year-old Wren knows that she-s in trouble when she awakens to a police officer hovering near her bed, but she has no idea what-s in store for her. Wren-s parents, in a desperate effort to save their daughter from a downward spiral of drug use and criminal behavior, have enrolled her in an eight-week wilderness program for at-risk youth. Whisked to Utah and dropped in the desert to join a group of teens and counselors, Wren endures a harrowing quest to find herself while battling extreme heat, limited water supplies, and rigorous hikes across the terrain. Mirroring physical pain and emotional torment as Wren recalls instances of betrayal and rejection, Van Draanen (The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones) shows how the teenager finds unexpected guidance from an elderly Paiute man, a heroin-addicted camper, and a patient counselor who teaches her how to start a fire in the wilderness, as well as within herself. Featuring evocative descriptions of landscape and psychological insight into a troubled teen, Van Draanen-s story is engrossing and inspiring. Ages 12-up. Agent: Ginger Knowlton, Curtis Brown. (Sept.)

Voice of Youth Advocates
Wren Clemmens is a freshman in high school when her life finally spins so far out of control that her parents are left with no choice but to send her away for an eight-week wilderness program in hopes of ending her downward spiral. Things started going badly for Wren in middle school, when her family moved to a new town and she felt adrift. Wren thought she had made a friend when she met Meadow and they bonded over their similar names; however, Meadow is nothing but trouble. She is into drugs and shoplifting and does not care about Wren. Wren becomes wrapped up in smoking weed and stealing, and eventually has a scary meltdown that terrifies and hurts her entire family. Her parents send her to Utah, in the middle of nowhere, hoping she will find peace. Wren is naturally reluctant and defiant during the first few weeks, but soon the desert works its magic and she is finding an inner strength she never knew she had and happiness that drugs and stealing could not bring. Van Draanen’s Wren is real and relatable, and readers will root for her in spite of her negative behaviors. A sixth grade student smoking marijuana in the school bathroom may be shocking, but is not unbelievable, and young readers will relate to Wren’s struggle to find a place to belong and fight harmful peer pressure. The story moves at a good pace, complete with vivid descriptions of desert landscapes and inner emotions. It is refreshing to see a strong female protagonist whose issues are not solved by meeting a boy of her dreams. Wren finds her strength in the desert surrounded by other girls who, while flawed, all find light at the end of the tunnel.—Kate Neff.
Word Count: 66,148
Reading Level: 4.4
Interest Level: 6-8
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.4 / points: 10.0 / quiz: 191834 / grade: Upper Grades
Lexile: HL680L


"Wren . . ."

My name is floating around me. Bouncing on the clouds in my mind.

"Wren . . . wake up, Wren."

Everything's cocoony. Drifty. The clouds are so soft.

"Wren, come on. It's time to go."

Go? Go where? Who said that? I don't recognize his voice. I look around my cloud, but it's dark. Like a storm is coming.

Then thunder begins to roll. "Wren!"

I pull in, hunker down. Why is he on my cloud? "Go away," I mumble through the rocks in my mouth. I need a drink. Maybe if I licked the cloud . . .

"She's totally wasted, Mom."

Wait. That was Anabella. What's she doing on my cloud?

She was definitely not invited.

The narc.

I can't see her either, though. And now the cloud is rocking. Rocking and spinning.

"Go back to bed," my mother whispers.

My mother? No! Not her, too!

A new voice struggles into the darkness. A small, sleepy voice. "What's going on?"

It's Mo! My little buddy, my Mowgli, my Mo-bro! He can be on my cloud. Anytime! But . . . no . . . wait. First I have to hide some things. Quick. I need to hide some things.

"Take Morris and get back to bed!" my mother hisses.

"I can't believe you're doing this," Anabella says.

"Take your brother and go!" my father commands.

My father?

Why am I even on this cloud? It's so crowded now. And dark. And rolling with thunder.

"Wren! Wake up!"

Who is that?

Light stabs my eyes as I peel them open. A man comes into focus. He's large. Standing over me. Wearing dark blue. With gold-embroidered shoulder patches.

A . . . a cop?

I sit up a little.

Yes, a cop.

He starts swaying. But . . . no, it's not him swaying. It's me. Or my bed. I grab for my trash can and puke.

My mind runs to Nico as my guts come up. Did he get busted? Is that why there's a cop here? Did they connect the dots?

I try to play it cool as I wipe off my mouth. "Sorry. Flu."

That line's always worked before. But this is a cop, not my parents. And he's got that look.

He's not buying.

The clock digits are a bloody red: 3:47 a.m. "What happened?" I ask my doorway parents. "Why is he here?"

"It's for your own good," my father says. His voice sounds icy. Hard. A freezer door slamming shut.

"Can you walk?" the cop asks.

I muster a sneer. "Of course I can walk!"

"Then get up and get dressed." He hands me jeans and a hoodie. "You're coming with me."

"What? Why?" I look over, and one of my doorway parents has disappeared. "Mom!" I call. I can hear her crying her way down the hall. "Mom! What is going on!"

She doesn't answer me. Nobody answers me. I'm shaky and cold and my head is pounding. There are handcuffs on the cop's belt. I've heard they hurt, so I pull on the jeans and yank the hoodie on over the T-shirt I slept in. I feel haphazard. On the verge of puking again. And then I notice that my phone's gone.

Full-on panic floods over me. I scramble around inside the covers, under my pillow.

"We've got your phone," my father says.

I am so busted.

"Use the bathroom," the cop tells me. "You'll be in the car awhile."

When I come out, my father hands a duffel to the cop and turns to me. His lips are tight white threads across his face. "We've tried everything, Wren."

"So you're turning me over to the cops? MOM!" I scream past him. "MOM!"

The cop grips my arm, and when I struggle to get free, he wrestles me down the hallway. I can hear my mother crying in the kitchen. "MOM!" I shriek. "WHAT IS GOING ON? HELP ME!"

My brother's voice seeps through Anabella's door, high-pitched and desperate. "We have to help Wren!"

"Mowgli!" I call out. "Mo-bro, help me!"

"Are you really that selfish?" my dad says, his words singeing the space between us.

"Why are you doing this to me?" I ask as the cop drags me through the house. We pass by the living room, pass by the piano, and now I'm crying.

"Because we're at our wits' end," my father says. "We've run out of options."

Then the cop's saying, "We'll be in touch, Mr. Clemmens," and I'm being hauled outside.

"Daddy, please!" I cry.

The door closes in my face.


But I'm talking to wood.

Dead, heartless wood.




The cop maneuvers me off the porch and out toward the street, where a black SUV is waiting. It has no police-force markings. Just sleek black, with tinted windows.

"You an undercover narc?" I ask.

"You worried about that?" he says. "At fourteen?"

"Just answer me!"

"Get in." He opens the door and points me to the far-back seats.

There's a woman behind the wheel. Blue uniform, gold patches, sunglasses.

In the middle of the night, she's wearing sunglasses.

"Mornin', sunshine," she says, grinning over her shoulder at me.

I want to tell her to shut up, but I climb in back, hoping she'll give me some answers. "Where we going?"

"Joel didn't tell you?" she asks, looking at me through the rearview mirror.

So the narc has a name. Joel. "You just told me more than I've gotten out of anybody this whole time."

"Ah," she says, and eyes Joel over her glasses. "Classified?"

"Need-to-know basis," he says, shutting the door and sitting in the middle row. "And what you need to know is she's coming off a high and hungover bad."

She hands him a barf bag, which gets relayed back to me. "You're stuck in what you're wearing for at least twelve," she says through the mirror. "So I wouldn't mess 'em up if I were you."

"Twelve? Twelve what?"

"Hours, honey." She puts the SUV in drive and pulls forward. "You're in for a long day."

"Twelve hours! Where are we going?"

She glances in the mirror. "To LAX."

"To the airport?" I lunge for the door, but Joel swats me back.

"See?" he tells the driver. "She didn't need to know that." Then he turns on me like a big, angry bear. "Let's get something straight," he growls. "You're in my legal custody. I'm allowed to restrain you by force. I've dealt with a lot bigger and badder than you, and I'm not in the mood for attitude, runners, or whining. If you want to be handcuffed, just try that again. If not, sit down, strap in, and shut up."

He stares me down, and it doesn't take long. I slink back feeling sick, but in a totally different way.

My parents turned over legal custody?

Like, disowned me?

I look out the window. We've already left our neighborhood and are speeding along Culver. The street is eerie without the usual traffic. It's misty nighttime, but there are so many lights along the road, it's like daylight. We drive past block after block of curving sidewalks lined with hedges and trees and long-leafed plants. Perfectly trimmed, always. When we moved here, that seemed nice. There weren't chain-link fences or alleyways scattered with trash. Everything was clean and green. And there was room. But we've been living here over three years, and I still get turned around when I go more than a few blocks. Every neighborhood looks the same.

We stop at a red light near Nico's street, and I think about making a dive for it again. Joel's sitting sideways, and I can see that his eyes are closed. . . . The driver's looking straight ahead waiting for the light to change. . . . If I can get out, I can ditch them, easy. But . . . would Nico even help me? He's told me more than once that if I bring trouble, I'm gone.

Suddenly Joel sticks his leg out. "Down, girl," he snarls, eyes still closed. "Don't make me cuff you."

How can he know what I'm thinking? I slump back, feeling way out of my league.

We ramp up to the I-5 freeway and head north, all five lanes to ourselves. I'm paying attention, trying to memorize how to get back to the neighborhood if I can get away.

I recognize the Costco turnoff, which normally takes twenty minutes of stop-and-go traffic to get to, and before I can believe it, we're long gone, passing signs for Disneyland.

My heart hurts, thinking about Disneyland. Thinking about my brother. He's never been Morris Lee Clemmens IV to me. He's always been Mo, Mo-bro, or Mowgli.

My little Jungle Book buddy.

What are they telling him about me?

Will he believe them?

And how could they do this to me? My own parents!

We fly past Disneyland, leave it behind. I hold my head. My heart aches. I can't seem to breathe.

How could they do this to me?

Excerpted from Wild Bird by Wendelin Van Draanen
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

From the award-winning author of The Running Dream and Flipped comes a remarkable portrait of a girl who has hit rock bottom but begins a climb back to herself at a wilderness survival camp.

3:47 a.m. That’s when they come for Wren Clemmens. She’s hustled out of her house and into a waiting car, then a plane, and then taken on a forced march into the desert. This is what happens to kids who’ve gone so far off the rails, their parents don’t know what to do with them anymore. This is wilderness therapy camp. Eight weeks of survivalist camping in the desert. Eight weeks to turn your life around. Yeah, right.
The Wren who arrives in the Utah desert is angry and bitter, and blaming everyone but herself. But angry can’t put up a tent. And bitter won’t start a fire. Wren’s going to have to admit she needs help if she’s going to survive.

"I read Wild Bird in one long, mesmerized gulp. Wren will break your heart—and then mend it." —Nancy Werlin, National Book Award finalist for The Rules of Survival

"Van Draanen’s Wren is real and relatable, and readers will root for her." —VOYA, starred review

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