Title: The Wild Ones
Author: Nafiza Azad
Synopsis: From William C. Morris Finalist Nafiza Azad comes a thrilling, feminist fantasy about a group of teenage girls endowed with special powers who must band together to save the life of the boy whose magic saved them all.
Meet the Wild Ones: girls who have been hurt, abandoned, and betrayed all their lives. It all began with Paheli, who was once betrayed by her mother and sold to a man in exchange for a favor. When Paheli escapes, she runs headlong into a boy with stars in his eyes. This boy, as battered as she is, tosses Paheli a box of stars before disappearing.
With the stars, Paheli gains access to the Between, a place of pure magic and mystery. Now, Paheli collects girls like herself and these Wild Ones use their magic to travel the world, helping the hopeless and saving others from the fates they suffered.
Then Paheli and the Wild Ones learn that the boy who gave them the stars, Taraana, is in danger. He’s on the run from powerful forces within the world of magic. But if Taraana is no longer safe and free, neither are the Wild Ones. And that…is a fate the Wild Ones refuse to accept. Ever again.
TRIGGER/CONTENT WARNING(S): Sexual and physical violence, depicted discussions of depression and suicide
The Wild Ones focuses on the hardships that girls and women face in life, the strength they can find in others, and the importance of building a caring family in which they can feel supported. Azad goes into greater detail about how humans build relationships and the horrors and beauty that may be found inside them.
This novel puts the challenges that girls and women experience around the world in our culture front and centre. It highlights how we can come together as a community to address the challenges that all women face. We get to observe how the survivors deal with the traumas they’ve had throughout their lives.
Paheli is an Indian figure who was sold by her mother in exchange for a favour in the book. After she fled, broken and injured, she ran upon Taraana, who gave her a box of magical stars before disappearing. Paheli collected other betrayed and abused females, and together with the magical stars, they helped those who had lost hope and saved them from pain.
The writing was an important component of the plot, with its melodic tone highlighting how much each Wild One had to go through before Paheli discovered them. The writing elicited both sniffles and smiles as it infused the plot with emotions.
For the first 20-25 percent of the book, the plot moved at a snail’s pace, which irked me. However, things increased up up after that, and things were rather exciting! The scenes were exciting and action-packed, but the magical descriptions were lacking. The middle-worlders are destroyed by the Wild Ones’ screams, yet those moments were limply depicted, and I believe they could have been done better.
An issue I had with The Wild Ones was that the chapters are recounted from two perspectives; one is Paheli’s, and the other is an unnamed Wild One, which perplexed me much. Only Paheli and Valentina seemed to have true personalities, and I had trouble differentiating characters and their voices.
I didn’t really get why there had to be SO MANY of Wild Ones, I feel like it would have worked with 4-7 of them which would have given them at least adequate page time instead of mentions here and there. It would have also allowed for character development and differentiation.
Although the idea appears to be intriguing, the premise did not live up to its full potential. The cover is gorgeous, and I adored the concept of a magical girl team that might represent many readers who feel underrepresented in the YA genre.
Recommended if you’re looking for a powerful feminist fantasy.
About the Author
Nafiza Azad is a self-identified island girl. She has hurricanes in her blood and dreams of a time she can exist solely on mangoes and pineapple. Born in Lautoka, Fiji, she currently resides in BC, Canada where she reads too many books, watches too many Kdramas and writes stories about girls taking over the world. Her debut YA fantasy, THE CANDLE AND THE FLAME, was released by Scholastic in 2019.