Wunderkids: Part 1 - Wildwood Academy
by Jacqueline Silvester
Published in March of 2017, apparently by the author. Good for her.
4.8 Stars with 9 Reviews
The Cover copy reads:
15-year-old Nikka is invited to attend Wildwood Academy, a prestigious but secret boarding school for talented youth located deep in the Californian mountains. Once there, Nikka quickly falls in love with her bizarre classes, the jaw-dropping scenery and... two very different boys.
However, Wildwood Academy has a dark and twisted secret, one that could cost Nikka the one thing she had never imagined she could lose, the one thing that money can’t buy. It is this very thing that Wildwood Academy was created to steal.
Nikka can stay and lose everything, or she can risk death and run.
***About the Author***
Jacqueline has had a colourful and dual life thus far; she's lived in a refugee camp in Sweden, a castle in France, a village in Germany, and spent her formative years in between Los Angeles, London and New York. As a result, she speaks four languages. Jacqueline has a Bachelors in English Literature from the University Of Massachusetts, and a Masters in Screenwriting from Royal Holloway, University Of London. After graduating she wrote her first novel and began writing cartoon screenplays. The two years she spent in an arts boarding school in the woods have inspired the particular world described in her debut novel Wunderkids. She lives in London with her husband, her excessive YA collection and a hyper husky named Laika.
Wunderkids has been translated into a number of languages and featured in Vogue magazine!
The Amazon preview has the first two chapters. I am going to read you the first.
Here we go:
My thoughts about Wunderkids.
I've always said, or at least I've said for a few years now, that any author who uses the word "Unceremoniously" should be ceremonially flogged. Jacqueline Sylvester uses it on virtually the first page. I'm trying to forgive her for that.
I think the first chapter gives an entirely different feel to the story than the cover blurb does. In this first chapter we discover the ruin of Nikka's life as her mother blunders into what sounds like just another failure. The mother is upbeat about the future, looking for jobs in interesting places like Seattle.
We meat Sonya who takes Nikka on a dangerous but scenic drive through the mountains, which appears to be a stalling tactic of her mother's, and a set up to get her to go to the academy. Sonya's presence seems to be comic relief--unless I'm reading her wrong.
At one point during conversation between Nikka and her mother, we get the impression that Daria knows something about this academy, but clams up. Then at the end of the chapter it's as if Stamos and Daria share an inside joke, as they toast with champagne. I mean. There was supposedly no phone number for Nikka to call, how did Daria have one?
None of this foreshadows the terrible things implied in the cover copy. And if Nikka will be putting her life on the line before the end of the book, then her own mother appears to have knowingly set her up for this death.
One reviewer describes the story as a combination of Harry Potter and Hunger Games, which two books have entirely different feelings, if you look at the first books. In hunger games, we have a sense of dread and doom from the beginning chapters. In Harry Potter, life appears to be drab for Harry, but always hopeful and ultimately safe.
I like the voice of this book, coming from Nikka, and I'm willing to read on the next couple chapters to find out if the theme resolves into the light hearted adventure (Harry Potter) or life threatening danger of the hunger games.
One thing that bugged me in the first chapter was reference to the San Jacinto Mountains where the Wildwood Academy is supposed to be and of the pamphlet that shows dense redwood forests. I wonder if the pamphlet is misleading her, because if there are any trees in the San Jacinto Mountains, they're not dense redwoods. They're more likely to be scrubby and sparse lodge pole pines. If we go to the next chapter and find these dense redwoods it would throw me right out of the story. Perhaps the author's goal was to create a fictitious place in southern California where you will find dense redwoods. If that is the case, she should have given the place a fictitious location, instead of a place anyone can easily google and look up.
In closing, I think that girls will like this book because of the strong female character of Nikka. I think boys will like this book because the central image on the book cover is a girl with an extremely short skirt.
I think Jackqueline Sylvester is a good story teller and I give this first chapter a four star recommendation to read further.