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Amy Mazzariello

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The Wild Things
Dave Eggers
Publish date: 2010-03-30
Trade Paper
Review date: 06/30/2010


Max is a rambunctious eight-year-old whose world is changing around him: His father is absent, his mother is increasingly distracted, and his teenage sister has outgrown him. Sad and angry, Max dons his wolf suit and makes terrible, ruinous mischief, flooding his sister's room and driving his mother half-crazy. Convinced his family doesn't want him anymore, Max flees home, finds a boat and sails away. Arriving on an island, he meets strange and giant creatures who rage and break things, who trample and scream. These beasts do everything Max feels inside, and so, Max appoints himself their king. Here, on a magnificent adventure with these funny and complex monsters, Max can be the wildest thing of all.


The Wild Things begins with Max playing in his neighborhood one snowy afternoon. His older sister is busy with friends, so in an attempt to gain their attention he creates a battlefield and declares a snowball war. The opening scene sets the tone for the rest of the novel, and we learn that Max is like most adolescent boys his age. He is full of adventure and his imagination takes him on many journeys outside the suburban neighborhood where he lives with his mother and sister. The constant stream of ideas cause the confusion and chaos that takes Max on his biggest journey yet, to a land far away where the wild things are.

If you have read the picture book version of this story then you are already familiar with the shore Max's boat washes up onto. If you have watched the movie you may be a bit more familiar with the monsters that dwell there. But through this novel Egger provides greater insight to the landscape of the island, the smell, girth and credulous nature of the monsters and the shaky bond they create with Max.

What I found special about this novel was the way in which Eggers expertly captured the chaotic wonderment of a child's imagination. Then he expands on this by creating an individual monster for each characteristic found in Max, and continues by showing the raw emotions of love, joy, anger and loss through an imagined kingdom and its subjects. The Wild Things is most certainly an adventure story when read to or by a child, but when read by an adult it gains deeper meaning and becomes a window into the minds of children.