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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Wildhood by Dr Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers

Teenagers: behind the banter, the tediously repetitive games and clicks, the moping and screaming, the fast living, and the jockeying and preening lie the rules of the entire animal kingdom.

Based on their popular Harvard University course, latest research, and worldwide travels, authors Dr Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers examine the four universal challenges that every adolescent on our planet must face on the journey to adulthood: how to be safe, how to navigate hierarchy, how to court potential mates, and how to leave the nest.

Or in other words; safety, status, sex, and survival.

Wildhood could quite easily be a book full of theories and jargon, or yawn-inducing 'professor speak'. But luckily for the reader, it is anything but.

The authors take readers on an eye-opening journey as they link biology, evolution, neurobiology, and humans and animals. We get a fresh look at the terrifying and exhilarating experience of being an adolescent, through the eyes of four main animal characters - Ursula (a penguin), Shrink (a hyena), Salt (a humpback whale), and Slavc (a wolf), - but also many more animals. Owls become a case study for regression, hens about mothering. Everyday animal behaviours are linked to the very things we see and do as humans unlocking deeper understanding about our lives.

The authors really know how to write in an engaging and informative way, without belittling their audience. Complex ideas or jargon are described in simple ways, linked into the narrative which makes the entire book very readable. A glossary near the end of the book also helps develop understanding.

A former senior design editor for National Geographic, Oliver Uberti, has created illustrations to accompany the book. These are both informative and beautiful as they make understanding the information effortless. The authors dedicate a wee chapter about the huge effort and commitment Uberti, and other researchers, put in to collecting the data points that form the basis of the information. It's a lovely touch that shows just how much dedication goes into research.

Detailed notes at the end of the book also document the immense research, and an index makes it a perfect reference book.

Wildhood is a fascinating read that provides a powerful new lens on the tricky transition to adulthood.

Reviewer: Rebekah Lyell

Scribe Publication, RRP $35.


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