Things aren’t at all simple in Wolf Hollow, and that’s the great strength of Lauren Wolk’s first novel for middle school readers. Wolk has created a fascinating world in the mountains of Pennsylvania in 1943, where heroine Annabelle announces in the opening line, “The year I turned twelve, I learned how to lie.”
Throughout this novel, Annabelle is learning how to see the world, especially after she wins a camera and a lifetime supply of film and processing. Before long, the camera is borrowed by Toby, a hobo-like World War I veteran who forever transforms Annabelle’s vision, and whose photographs play a pivotal role in the unfolding drama.
Annabelle is being tormented by a new classmate in the one-room schoolhouse she attends. Betty Glengarry, a “dark-hearted girl who came to our hills and changed everything,” not only threatens Annabelle and her younger brothers, but her bullying spirals so completely out of control that a girl named Ruth suffers a horrifying accident.
Betty points a finger of blame squarely at Toby, prompting a tragic cascade of events in which only Annabelle is left to expose the truth. As Annabelle soon realizes, “The truth was so tightly braided with secrets that I could not easily say anything without saying too much.”
Wolf Hollow is fascinating and fast-paced, driven by Wolk’s exquisite plotting and thoughtful, fine-tuned writing. Reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird, this isn't a book full of happy endings; instead, it gives young readers a ringside seat at real-life moral complexities. As Annabelle explains, “The year I turned twelve, I learned that what I said and what I did mattered.”