Wildhood

the Epic Journey from Adolescence to Adulthood 
in Humans and Other Animals
by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Katherine Bowers

All living things go through a transition from youth to adulthood. It\’s a time of trying out survival skills and independence, testing boundaries and rebelling against parental control. The authors look at a wide variety of animals- from sea-dwelling mammals and crabs to birds, wolves and hyenas- even fruit flies. They examine how all these different animals navigate the stressful, exhilarating and downright dangerous time of adolescence. The book is divided into several parts, focusing on how animals learn to be safe- flirting with danger in order to learn about it, navigate social structures attempting to gain or hold status, experiment with courtship skills, and learn how to provide for themselves- hunting or finding food. They compare the way animals manage all this, to how human adolescents also learn to become independent adults. Some animals immediately shove their young off on their own, others have a long teaching period or allow their offspring to linger around the home territory with partial support for as long as they need it. It\’s all very interesting and I came across lots of things I never knew before. There are a few specific individuals whose coming-of-age moments are in the book as a narrative- they are a penguin, humpback whale, Eurasian wolf, cougar and a spotted hyena- but their stories are told in a very stretched-out manner. One or two sentences about the animal first leaving home- it\’s about to leap into the ocean!- and then paragraphs on scientific data or explanations or examples from other species- and then one more snippet about the animal- followed by a whole chapter of tangents. Well, the tangents are actually the point, but I nearly forgot about the penguin or hyena example in the meantime. Also there\’s a very odd typo where a klipspringer is repeatedly called clip springer (it\’s a small antelope) which really bugged me. And I didn\’t really care for the term \”wildhood\” which the authors chose to use. They explained why, but it still felt gimmicky to me. I don\’t know what\’s wrong with just using the term adolescence or youth, even when talking about animals. Regardless, I really enjoyed this book. Similar read: Becoming a Tiger.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

Rating: 4/5                      354 pages, 2019

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