Wild Dreamers

S. & S./Atheneum. Apr. 2024. 224p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781665939751.
Gr 8 Up–Seventeen-year-olds Leandro and Ana are struggling to make sense of their lives. While fleeing Cuba with his family, Leandro was devastated when his father drowned trying to protect him. Living with his mother and uncle in California, he attempts to get through his panic attacks and grief. Ana and her mother are on the run from her criminal father. Forced to use their car as a home, they wait patiently until her mother makes enough money to afford a place of their own. When Leandro spots Ana in a wilderness park in San Francisco one night, he feels an immediate connection with her. The moment becomes more intense when they see a mountain lion nearby. The teens continue to be drawn to one another and to the natural world around them. They start a rewilding club at their high school to restore the natural habitats of native animal species, and begin to gain confidence as they explore ideas together. Written in verse, the story has a dreamlike vibe that is mesmerizing. With alternating POVs—including a dog’s—the plot covers all angles. Engle writes poetically about the natural world, including sharp details about animals, plants, and landscapes. The affection between the young characters is dynamic, as they bond over their shared interest in nature and their life experiences. Though a few mentions of political events briefly disrupt the flow of the narrative, the overall tone is one of warmth and positivity.
VERDICT An engaging novel in verse that touches on serious issues but is uplifting and hopeful. Recommended for middle and high school libraries.

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