Wolf Hollow is a beautiful book in many ways. Annabelle is loyal and protective towards her friends and family, and Lauren Wolk reveals this without making her seem too good or too sweet. Annabelle’s family and their relationships to the community around them are also drawn carefully and deeply. It’s a supportive and caring place for a child to grow up, at least until Betty shows up.
That’s when you begin to feel a little uncomfortable. Betty is mean in a way that goes a step beyond the tough kids Annabelle has known before. Betty is manipulative and scary, threatening to hurt others and tell lies at a whole different level. As a reader, you keep thinking, “This isn’t going to end well.” And it really doesn’t.
Just when you think Betty might be caught in one lie or another, she comes back to ruin another piece of Annabelle’s life. Betty is the kind of bully who picks on Annabelle simply because she can, not because Annabelle is weaker than other kids. When looking for her next victim, Betty doesn’t shy away from taking on adults, either. Betty is the silent, heavy, creepy fog that blocks out the sunshine and light and leaves only pain and sadness behind. Is she evil? Probably. Can she be stopped? It seems unlikely.
This is not a book for a sunny day at the beach or a quiet summer afternoon at the park. It’s dark and heavy and the resolution was not really happy for anyone, but it might create some interesting opportunities for discussion with older middle grade kids. Can you actually stop a bully with words? How can our choices affect other people? Is lying ever ok? Or even necessary?
Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk