The Wild Inside
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: March 20, 2018
Page count: 304
Goodreads: See here
Plot at a Glance:
A natural born trapper and hunter raised in the Alaskan wilderness, Tracy Petrikoff spends her days tracking animals and running with her dogs in the remote forests surrounding her family’s home. Though she feels safe in this untamed land, Tracy still follows her late mother’s rules: Never Lose Sight of the House. Never Come Home with Dirty Hands. And, above all else, Never Make a Person Bleed.
But these precautions aren’t enough to protect Tracy when a stranger attacks her in the woods and knocks her unconscious. The next day, she glimpses an eerily familiar man emerge from the tree line, gravely injured from a vicious knife wound—a wound from a hunting knife similar to the one she carries in her pocket.
Helping her father cope with her mother’s death and prepare for the approaching Iditarod, she doesn’t have time to think about what she may have done. Then a mysterious wanderer appears, looking for a job. Tracy senses that Jesse Goodwin is hiding something, but she can’t warn her father without explaining about the attack—or why she’s kept it to herself.
It soon becomes clear that something dangerous is going on . . . the way Jesse has wormed his way into the family . . . the threatening face of the stranger in a crowd . . the boot-prints she finds at the forest’s edge.
Her family is in trouble. Will uncovering the truth protect them—or is the threat closer than Tracy suspects?
I came across The Wild Inside when browsing Edelweiss for advance review copies. I’ve grown very particular over the last year about what I’ll request from publishers, as time seems to be a commodity that I have less and less of lately. I was drawn this debut offering from Jamey Bradbury and William Morrow in part because of the gorgeous cover, and literary fiction infused with horror and fantasy elements seemed quite intriguing.
Many writing courses and lecturers tell aspiring authors, “write what you know.” Bradbury puts that advice into practice, setting her debut novel in her adopted state of Alaska. She chooses to center a core component of the plot around the Alaskan sport of dog mushing, particularly on the Iditarod trail.
If Bradbury herself is not a dog musher by practice, I must give her credit where its due for the research and effort put forth here as she conveys critical aspects of that sport to her readers. I bought all of it, and came away feeling like I had learned something, which is impressive in its own right.
Oddly enough, though fantasy, horror and suspense are my mainstay genres to read in, I found their inclusion here less of a motivating factor to continue reading. In a way, I think Tracy’s story was complex enough without adding a fantastical element that I can only describe as poorly defined. It created more questions than it answered – particularly about Tracy and how she interacts with everyone around her.
Is Tracy damaged by her past? Absolutely.
Is she struggling to find her place in a changed world as a young adult. Yup.
Is she a supernatural being, or is she delusional?
I’m less sure about the answer to that last question. Unfortunately the story never takes the time to pin down a satisfying answer. The result is that the story frequently becomes bogged down by strange interludes – dark passages that don’t really make much sense and are never clarified in the scope of what it means for Tracy, and how it began. I’m choosing to remain intentionally vague here as I hate spoilers, but I will say that Tracy’s entire existence comes to revolve around her need to engage this fantastical element and it really made me dislike her as a character.
She never questions the sanity of what she’s doing. She makes a number of leaps of logic that ultimately end up hurting other people a great deal because of it, and yet she never considers stopping. Her ardent fear towards the antagonist of the story really suffered in the face of this because I always considered Tracy a completely unreliable narrator. I was awaiting some massive twist in which this level of distrust would be used to inform on why nothing is ever explained, but it never comes.
As frustrated as I was by the lack of explanation given, there was still a great deal to love about this novel. I think for a debut outing it’s quite strong. The characters aside from Tracy were rather well defined, with distinct backstories that are delivered over the course of the story. Some of them were a bit more strongly constructed than others, but for the most part they felt real and well developed as people.
I’ll be excited to see how Bradbury’s work expands moving forward. I think she shows a great deal of promise as a young author, and will be interested to see how her works shift into either clear literary fiction or a more dedicated fantasy/horror focus in the future.
🌟🌟🌟 = 3 out of 5 stars! A strong debut!
Read anything good lately? What genres are you really enjoying right now?