Author: Piers Torday
Genre: Children's Fiction
Goodreads rating: 3.61 out of 5.00 (10+ ratings)
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In a world where animals no longer exist, twelve-year-old Kester Jaynes sometimes feels like he hardly exists either. Locked away in a home for troubled children, he's told there's something wrong with him. So when he meets a flock of talking pigeons and a bossy cockroach, Kester thinks he's finally gone a bit mad. But the animals have something to say... The pigeons fly Kester to a wild place where the last creatures in the land have survived. A wise stag needs Kester's help, and together they must embark on a great journey, joined along the way by an over-enthusiastic wolf-cub, a spoilt show-cat, a dancing harvest mouse and a stubborn girl named Polly. The animals saved Kester Jaynes. But can Kester save the animals?
Review by Chantelle
"Do not give up Kester. You have a voice."
Wow, The Last Wild is the single most mindbogglingly imaginative, creative and artistically confounding book I've ever had the fortune to read.
Kester Jaynes is a twelve year old boy locked in a home for troubled children. He doesn't know why, just that there's something wrong with him, and he doesn't know whether his dad knows he's there, or worse, whether his dad sent him there. Kester Jaynes doesn't talk, can't talk, whether he wants to or not, he just can't. In a dystopian world where animals are extinct, Kester sees a cockroach, amazingly he can hear it, and it can hear him. Then he meets spiders, and then pigeons... who fly him to a place to meet and hopefully save "the last wild".
This novel seriously knocked me for a loop; it was so cryptic - highlights included me getting irrationally attached to a certain Wolf-Cub, and literally sobbing at one point which doesn't happen often! On one hand, it was about a boy who can talk to animals, and goes on a huge six part adventure trying to find a cure to prevent their extinction. And yet, on the other hand, it was about infinitely more, because Piers Torday does not sugar coat much. There was a recurring theme of hope, but the plot was gritty, and honest, and pretty confronting. Basically so inventive and thoughtful, I couldn't not give it 5 stars.
The use of a main character who couldn't talk, couldn't express himself to other humans was so impacting. I'm sure we've all felt that way before, that we can't communicate properly with even those closest to us, that they're not understanding, that we're all alone. As the novel progresses, Kester meets a large range of animals, from mice to majestic stags, each with their own unique personalities and qualities who can hear him. I think it was supposed to reflect the growth of imagination and self-belief of Kester as he soldiered on through his "wild", and that the power of childish innocence, and blind faith can save lives, that everyone has the potential to be a hero... Not really sure. Either way, this novel is overflowing with metaphorical resonances, you can definitely feel the amount of passion and thought Piers Torday has invested into this novel with each paragraph.
That being said, I have no idea whether this book would ideally be for children or adults. I think that the plot is so ambiguous that anyone, young or old, could read this, and have wildly different but personally valid interpretations. And that, to me, is the beauty of The Last Wild. Honestly, I don't think I understand half of it yet, it's still stewing in my brain with certain scenes that I can't get out of my head, asking myself why and how. It's an extremely rare reaction to have to any novel, let alone a "children's" novel which as an adult usually seem rather straight forward. Kester's adventure is one that I truly believe kids can grow up re-reading many, many times and each time - with growing life experiences - be able to relate to another character, notice another nuance, or discover another significance that could be applied to their life.
I would definitely recommend buying this book for your kids (so you can read it yourself), just don't blame me when they get all weirdly reflective about the world and their significance in it... Or if they ask for a stag for christmas.