Cover Wilder: Drawn outlines of a boy and girl on a red background

About the Book

Title: Wilder
Published: 2018

Cover Story: Seeing Red
BFF Charm: Hell No
Talky Talk: Not For Me
Factor: Unreliable Narrator
Anti-Bonus Factor: Dan Scott Award for Awful Parenting
Relationship Status: Failed Date

Cover Story: Seeing Red

This cover won’t hide this book when it’s lying around your house. It’s very IN YOUR FACE red, which makes me realize that this isn’t a typical cover color I often see. Andrew’s outline is white compared to Meili’s solid black, which could indicate he is fading in comparison to her strong personality, or that he sees them as very different types of people. 

The Deal:

Jason Wilder has been stuck doing in-school suspension for a few months now and nothing interesting has ever happened in the Rubber Room until…her. The girl named Melissa who is not actually Melissa. Suddenly Jason’s small town life, which was complicated enough with an arson charge and an alcoholic mother who’s disappeared to Florida, is becoming even more colorful. Meili is chaos in the female form, an irresistible mystery Wilder wants to unravel…but will doing so put them both at risk? You know what they say: don’t play with matches if you’re not willing to get burned.

BFF Charm: Hell No

Hell No BFF Charm in Flames

I’ve got some sympathy for Wilder’s situation. He’s got a deadbeat dad who can’t be bothered with him and a drunk mom who thinks a phone call every few weeks is enough of a check in to absolve her of actually mothering. He feels deeply guilty about a revenge gone wrong where an innocent person got hurt by his hand, and no adult is really looking out for him. So he latches on something fierce to Meili and her enigmatic past to the point of obsession. Here’s someone who make take him away from a dull and predictable life. I, however, was definitely NOT infatuated with Meili, so if she’s all he can think and talk about then we will certainly never be friends. Catch ya on the flip side, Wilder. 

Swoonworthy Scale: 0

I’ll give the book a begrudging 1 point for having actual sex but I am going to snatch it right back because that sex was less than sexy. Wilder and Meili’s relationship can be summed up in one word: dysfunctional. Meili is using Wilder for comfort, for boredom, for vanity—and he’s eating it all up because she is a hot chick who is playing hard to get but still paying him enough of the attention that he craves. These are two people who should not be together, so any moments between them had me waving my hands in warning like they were two freight trains about to collide.

Talky Talk: Not For Me

I will freely admit that early on I realized this wasn’t going to be the book for me, and that probably colored the rest of my reading experience. The writing style is choppy on purpose, meant to mimic the turmoil in Wilder’s head, and that’s down there with verse as my least favorite narrative devices. I had trouble connecting to Wilder, particularly because I hated Meili and he, well, didn’t. He knew she was bad news for him, but he wanted her anyway. I wanted to pinch her because I occasionally, like Wilder, also have violent tendencies. She’s not supposed to be likeable, but I think in some part I am supposed to sympathize with her for being messed up by her own family and give her a pass for being a teenager who sometimes makes mistakes. But I don’t think she grew enough from her experiences. Sometimes a teenage asshole is going to be an adult asshole and I got a strong whiff of something smelly coming from her direction.

Factor: Unreliable Narrator

A line up of the cast of The Usual Suspects

We seem to be in Jason’s head via loose journal entries he wrote about his time with Meili, and every so often he’ll break in with an ominous warning that all isn’t as it seems. Sometimes this works well, sometimes it’s confusing, and other times it’s simply exhausting. This was a mixture of all three.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Dan Scott Award for Awful Parenting

Evil Dan Scott from One Tree Hill

I think I’ve hinted at enough crappy behavior further up in the review that you can see Wilder’s parents are bad news. If he’d had a better support system his life would’ve turned out very differently.

Relationship Status: Failed Date

You don’t like milkshake dumped in your lap, Book? Maybe you shouldn’t have spent the entirety of our date staring at another woman. I can only take so much before my self-respect kicks in. I think you need to find some of your own, too. Ciao.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. Wilder is available now.


Stephanie (she/her) is an avid reader who moonlights at a college and calls Orlando home. Stephanie loves watching television, reading DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.