Study Guide

The Wild Children Coming of Age

By Felice Holman

Coming of Age

Chapter 1

He was twelve years old, but on this day he was so insecure and uncertain that he felt as he had when he was a much younger child. (1.38)

Careful now, Alex—go too far back in time and you'll end up in diapers. Jokes aside, this quote sets the tone for Alex's journey in The Wild Children, establishing that he'll need to grow up in order to stay alive. It's not going to be an easy, but we have faith in the kid.

Alex

"But my father is very strict," Alex said. "I must always do as he says."

"Perhaps," Katriana replied. But do you always think as he thinks?" (1.48-49)

Thinking for yourself is an important part of growing up. While it's good to listen to what your parents say, you shouldn't take their word as gospel. Instead, you should think hard about the things they teach you and develop your own opinions and beliefs.

Chapter 2

To leave […] this sanctuary […] was a pain such as he thought he might feel if he were being clawed by wolves and left bleeding in the snow, a nightmare of his childhood. (2.6)

And that's just about the most emo metaphor of all-time—sounds like lyrics from a Fall Out Boy song. You'd probably be a little melodramatic, too, if your entire family got kidnapped in the middle of the night. Although Alex wishes he could just stay in Katriana's apartment until the end of time, he'll need to get moving if he wants any shot at survival.

At first Alex tried to pretend that he was on a great adventure to a foreign land, a pioneer, a crusader, and explorer, a discoverer. (2.42)

At first, Alex turns to his imagination for refuge from reality. That doesn't work out too well, though—instead of playing make-believe and sugar coating his predicament, Alex needs to confront his situation head-on. It's a tall order, but we just know that he'll step up.

Chapter 6

Miska now came up with his old red book. He said nothing, just pressed it upon Alex. (6.65)

In many ways, Alex acts like a father figure to Miska. This is a huge sign of growth on his part since it shows him placing others' needs ahead of his own, just like his parents did for him.

Chapter 10

Could that first loss have been only months ago—not years? He felt so much older. (10.104)

Alex's life has been stuck on fast-forward, and in a matter of months, he's become more mature than most college-aged kids. To be honest, we could hardly tie our shoelaces when we were his age.

Despite the exhausting run from the shelter, and the astounding and shocking thing he had just heard from Peter, his mind seemed clearer than it had been in months. (10.91)

That's what you call growing up, Alex old buddy. Alex has endured a lot over the past few months, but these most recent events—the death of Miska and Peter's murder of the director—are perhaps the most heartbreaking. But the truth is that it's exactlythese sorts of tragedies that we need to jumpstart us into action and force ourselves to grow up.

Chapter 11

Alex thought, that's the way I felt the day I ran to Katriana, not knowing what to do. But there was no Katriana for Peter. (11.2)

This is another key moment for Alex. Ever since Alex has been on the streets, Peter has acted almost like a father to him, caring for him when no one else would. But now Peter is the one who needs to be cared for, and Alex is more than happy to repay his friend's kindness.

It amazed him that he might be affecting someone else's actions, someone's choices, when he had scarcely ever been asked to make on for himself. (11.23)

This one might seem like a no-brainer, but it's actually a really big deal. Alex doesn't see himself merely as a victim anymore; he sees himself as a man who has the power to change things. He might not be able to change the whole world overnight, but he'll certainly do his part.

For perhaps the first time, Alex paid no attention to the orders of others […] Alex bent down. (7.13)

This is a huge moment for Alex. First, he's actually thinking for himself for once. That's awesome. More importantly, however, he's taking a big risk to help someone who truly needs it.

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