Wild Life
Keena Roberts split her adolescence between the wilds of an island camp in Botswana and the even more treacherous halls of an elite Philadelphia private school. In Africa, she slept in a tent, cooked over a campfire, and lived each day alongside the baboon colony her parents were studying. She could wield a spear as easily as a pencil, and it wasn't unusual to be chased by lions or elephants on any given day. But for the months of the year when her family lived in the United States, this brave kid from the bush was cowed by the far more treacherous landscape of the preppy, private school social hierarchy.Most girls Keena's age didn't spend their days changing truck tires, baking their own bread, or running from elephants as they tried to do their schoolwork. They also didn't carve bird whistles from palm nuts or nearly knock themselves unconscious trying to make homemade palm wine. But Keena's parents were famous primatologists who shuttled her and her sister between Philadelphia and Botswana every six months. Dreamer, reader, and adventurer, she was always far more comfortable avoiding lions and hippopotamuses than she was dealing with spoiled middle-school field hockey players.In Keena's funny, tender memoir, Wild Life, Africa bleeds into America and vice versa, each culture amplifying the other. By turns heartbreaking and hilarious, Wild Life is ultimately the story of a daring but sensitive young girl desperately trying to figure out if there's any place where she truly fits in.

Wild Life Details

TitleWild Life
Author
ReleaseNov 12th, 2019
PublisherGrand Central Publishing
Rating
GenreAutobiography, Memoir, Nonfiction, Cultural, Africa, Biography, Animals

Wild Life Review

  • Nenia ⚡ Aspiring Evil Overlord ⚡ Campbell
    January 1, 1970
    Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || PinterestThe movie Mean Girls opens up with Cady Heron returning to normal high school life after spending the last 12 years in Africa with her zoologist parents. Applying the same observational skills she acquired in Africa, Cady quickly observes that people, like animals, tend to stay in their own groups and exhibit hierarchical displays of social dominance and aggression. I always thought that was a really cool hook but it seemed unrealistic-- Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || PinterestThe movie Mean Girls opens up with Cady Heron returning to normal high school life after spending the last 12 years in Africa with her zoologist parents. Applying the same observational skills she acquired in Africa, Cady quickly observes that people, like animals, tend to stay in their own groups and exhibit hierarchical displays of social dominance and aggression. I always thought that was a really cool hook but it seemed unrealistic-- until I picked up WILD LIFE, and realized that Keena is literally Cady.Keena grew up in Kenya and Zimbabwe with her primatologist parents, spending the majority of her time in a baboon camp. While camping in Africa, she learned many survival skills, such as how to treat severe dehydration and survive in temperatures reaching 130 degrees; how to react in a leopard or lion attack; how to shoot the head of a snake and wield a spear; and some unconventional first aid techniques, such as the use of a stun gun to neutralize snake venom.To keep their grants, though, her parents had to continually return back to the United States to teach, and so, by proxy, did Keena and her younger sister, Lucy. In her private school in Philadelphia, Keena quickly learned that most of the kids didn't care about anything she picked up in Africa, regarding her as a freak and calling her names; the very things that made her unique and a survivalist made her unliked and ostracized from her peers, especially since her interests-- animals and fantasy books-- didn't really sync up with the trends in pop-culture.I picked up this book partially because the premise sounded like a real life Mean Girls, and it was that, but also so much more. I love travel memoirs, especially if the author is really skilled at imparting the details of their journey, and WILD LIFE is an especially cinematographic memoir: I really felt like I was in the veldts of Botswana, having real life encounters with lions, and baboons, and hippos (oh my). When she described the 130-degree heatwave that made all of their equipment melt, I felt a little dizzy, myself. She's an incredible narrator, and during every step of this memoir, I felt like I was really seeing everything through her eyes. It was incredible.One of the flaws of memoirs is that if you don't like the person writing the book, when you're rating a book you kind of have to rate the person. The corollary to that is, if you like the person writing the book, you feel like you've made a new best friend. Keena Roberts is so cool and I saw so much of myself in her-- a tomboyish, awkward book nerd with unconventional and obsessive interests and a love of facts and animals. I took it personally when she was bullied by her peers, because I had a similar experience in middle school and high school, and seeing her get stung by rejection but stay true to herself despite everything made me really wish that I could have been her friend in school.WILD LIFE is such a fantastic memoir and it's completely different from other travel memoirs that I've read. Her knowledge and passion and genuine love of reading and the written word make this such a pleasure to read, and I think anyone who feels like they don't fit in will relate to Keena Roberts' own personal Mean Girls adventure-- complete with bonus scenes set in Africa.Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!   4.5 stars
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  • Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
    January 1, 1970
    In this engaging memoir, teenage Keena Roberts’ parents studied baboons in an Island camp in Botswana. Keena spent her time either there, or in a fancy private school in Philadelphia. Which do you think was harder for Keena to adapt to? This was like a real life Mean Girls crossed with a life in rural, wild, Africa. I loved this. Wild Life is about culture. Fitting in. Coming-of-age. Keena has an insightful, relatable story to tell. I received a complimentary copy from the publisher. Many of my In this engaging memoir, teenage Keena Roberts’ parents studied baboons in an Island camp in Botswana. Keena spent her time either there, or in a fancy private school in Philadelphia. Which do you think was harder for Keena to adapt to? This was like a real life Mean Girls crossed with a life in rural, wild, Africa. I loved this. Wild Life is about culture. Fitting in. Coming-of-age. Keena has an insightful, relatable story to tell. I received a complimentary copy from the publisher. Many of my reviews can also be found on instagram: www.instagram.com/tarheelreader
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  • Erin Khar
    January 1, 1970
    I was fortunate to be able to read an advanced copy of Wild Life. This is the kind of memoir that surprises, the kind you can't put down. It's going to appeal to a broad audience — will please both adults and the YA crowd. I absolutely loved this book. Keena's strong voice is funny and fresh and bright. I was enthralled with her adventures; there is a certain magic that comes through the pages. I highly recommend this captivating gem of a book.
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  • Jessica
    January 1, 1970
    This review and more can be found on The Book Bratz.When I first heard about Keena's book during one of the #Class2k19Books chats that we were given the awesome opportunity to host, I was immediately intrigued. A story about a girl who split her time growing up between her parents' research camp in Botswana and an elite high school in Philly? It sounded exactly like Mean Girls, which is exactly up my alley. And when I found out that it was nonfiction, and was actually Keena's own experience? This review and more can be found on The Book Bratz.When I first heard about Keena's book during one of the #Class2k19Books chats that we were given the awesome opportunity to host, I was immediately intrigued. A story about a girl who split her time growing up between her parents' research camp in Botswana and an elite high school in Philly? It sounded exactly like Mean Girls, which is exactly up my alley. And when I found out that it was nonfiction, and was actually Keena's own experience? That was even better. So without further ado, let's get into my review!As the summary explains, this book is an actual nonfiction account of Keena's childhood as she grew up, both in Africa and America. I hadn't ever read YA nonfiction before, so I wasn't sure what to expect before I got into this book, but Keena's writing so well done that the book felt like any other fiction I'd pull off of the shelf. I flew through this book in just a few days because I loved it so much and couldn't put it down! Plus, it was pretty cool to keep reminding myself that everything I was reading was actually stuff that happened to Keena in her own life. It was -- no pun intended -- a wild ride of a read!Another thing that I really liked about this book was the way Keena described the experiences in America. Those were the parts where I got definite Mean Girls vibes, where it felt like young Keena was more at risk around the high school predators of jealous girls and rude boys, rather than all of the wild life she encountered during her time in Africa. It also made me really sad to read about how bullied she was when she first came to American schools after Africa, because remembering that this was a real story and that there were really people who were this mean to kids that were different than them was pretty sad. But young Keena handled it all with grace and intellect, and watching her brave her way through the "high school wild" was just as fascinating as it was to read about her adventures in Botswana. My favorite part of this book was just seeing all of the different ways that Keena and her family survived at Baboon Camp. As someone who isn't even good at camping when it's in my own backyard, seeing her family manage to make a home out of what started as an empty stretch of land was really cool to see. And, like I've probably said a million times since I started this review, the fact that I know that this all really happened, and I know Keena through blogging (she's such a great friend, and I'm on her street team!), it gave the book another special element to me. Reading this book really did leave me feeling warm and fuzzy inside by the end!Overall, I absolutely loved Wild Life, and I'd absolutely recommend it to anyone looking for an adventurous read! Keena Roberts weaves her life experience together in such a captivating way that will hook you from the very first word and keep you hanging on until the very end. If you've never tried nonfiction before, or specifically YA nonfiction, I'd absolutely encourage you to pick this one up. Wild Life is something different, refreshing, and new. It will take you on an adventure across the world that you may not expect, and you learn a lot about the book's fabulous author in the process!
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  • Michelle
    January 1, 1970
    I rarely, if ever, read memoirs. Every now and then, if it’s someone of great cultural/historical significance, then perhaps, but I tend to stay away, especially if it’s just your average person. It’s a subjective thing, really, nothing against the genre of a whole.Keena Roberts’s Wild Life, however, is a phenomenal example and I’m so happy that I was given the opportunity to read her ARC. She tells her story with depth, humor, and heart, and when you’re done, you can almost believe you were I rarely, if ever, read memoirs. Every now and then, if it’s someone of great cultural/historical significance, then perhaps, but I tend to stay away, especially if it’s just your average person. It’s a subjective thing, really, nothing against the genre of a whole.Keena Roberts’s Wild Life, however, is a phenomenal example and I’m so happy that I was given the opportunity to read her ARC. She tells her story with depth, humor, and heart, and when you’re done, you can almost believe you were studying in Kenya or Botswana right alongside her.Roberts spent much of her life growing up in a variety of African settings with her primatologist parents. There she absorbed everything she could living among wild animals and often felt more at home with them than she did when she would return to her American schools. She could understand how and why wild animals acted, but she couldn’t wrap her head around the meanness of her classmates.I’m amazed at how much life she packs into less than 300 pages. Aside from learning about her fascinating upbringing, I learned even more about Africa, particularly the landscape and life in places such as Kenya, and Botswana—the animals, the people, their illnesses and struggles as well as their passions and humanity. Through vivid descriptions, you will smell the rain, sweat in the 130 degree temperatures, feel the dust clogging your nose. This book is a triumph and as a YA-geared release, I can see its usefulness in a variety of academic settings. But anyone of her age bracket (and anyone else, really) will easily relate as well, as she writes about contemporary world events as they unfolded in her life. When she mentions the death of Princess Diana and 9/11, well, I was instantly transported to my teenage days too.Thank you to the author for passing along a copy of this ARC to review.
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  • K.A. Black
    January 1, 1970
    This is, by far, the best non-fic book I've read. Roberts drops you right into her life at a young age and does a great job of bringing you right along with her first to Kenya, then the US, and finally to Botswana. I found myself having to actively pull myself away because I wanted to know all about Roberts growing up between the two continents and the different lives she led between them. How she saw herself as two parts (something I'm sure many geeks or nerds can relate to), and having to hide This is, by far, the best non-fic book I've read. Roberts drops you right into her life at a young age and does a great job of bringing you right along with her first to Kenya, then the US, and finally to Botswana. I found myself having to actively pull myself away because I wanted to know all about Roberts growing up between the two continents and the different lives she led between them. How she saw herself as two parts (something I'm sure many geeks or nerds can relate to), and having to hide one part to fit in (same). And the ending! With the lion! Goodness. This is a true look into a different life that provides such valuable insight into the heart of a caring woman and the research her family did to help those on our earth that cannot speak for themselves in a way we understand. This book is worthy of all praise.
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  • Kelly Coon
    January 1, 1970
    I’ve never been so in love with a memoir. Roberts brought me to the Okavango Delta and her family’s research baboon camp, and I felt as if I were actually there. With vivid descriptions and harrowing real life tales (I am SHOCKED by that boat she captained at 10 years old), her storytelling snagged me by the mouth and reeled me in. This is one of my favorite reads this year!!!
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  • Carole (Carole's Random Life in Books)
    January 1, 1970
    This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books.I really enjoyed this book! If you follow my reviews, you probably already know that my taste in books is pretty eclectic. While I am willing to read anything that sounds interesting, I don't read a lot of memoirs because they rarely appeal to me. I have zero desire to read about celebrities which eliminates a lot of memoirs. A story about a normal person doing extraordinary things is exactly the kind of thing I can get into so I This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books.I really enjoyed this book! If you follow my reviews, you probably already know that my taste in books is pretty eclectic. While I am willing to read anything that sounds interesting, I don't read a lot of memoirs because they rarely appeal to me. I have zero desire to read about celebrities which eliminates a lot of memoirs. A story about a normal person doing extraordinary things is exactly the kind of thing I can get into so I went with my gut and gave this book a try and I am so glad that I did. Once I started reading this book, I didn't want to stop and ended up reading the whole book in a single day. Keena's childhood was quite unique. Her parents studied animals in their own environment and took the whole family with them. She spent the first few years of her life in Kenya but most of her childhood was split between Botswana and Philadelphia. While in Baboon Camp in Botswana, Keena and her family lived in tents and had to watch out for lions, elephants, and buffalo. While in school, she had to deal with kids who liked being mean to anyone who was a little different. From her descriptions, I would have preferred life with the lions over going to high school as she did.I loved getting to know Keena through her stories. There were times that I worried about her and feared that she would get hurt. I sympathized with her when she struggled to fit in at school. I was a little jealous of her when she described the days that she would spend the day in a tree reading while at camp. I was amazed by her ability to think clearly in highly stressful situations. The descriptions in the book are very well done and I felt like I had a good idea of what life was like at camp. I loved that there were a few photos scattered throughout the book to help illustrate some of the things discussed in the book.I would recommend this book to others. I found this book to be very entertaining and I feel like I learned a few things in the process. I wouldn't hesitate to read more from Keena Roberts in the future.I received a review copy of this book from Grand Central Publishing.Initial ThoughtsI really enjoyed this book. I don't read a lot of memoirs but when I do decide to pick one up it is usually about a normal person doing extraordinary things instead of anything dealing with a celebrity. I couldn't imagine growing up like Keena did before reading this book. I understood her love of nature and animals while struggling to fit in during her times in the United States. I thought that she did a fantastic job of letting the reader see what both aspects of her life were like. I was worried about her safety at times and her emotional welfare at others. I am so glad that I decided to give this one a try.
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  • Dawn
    January 1, 1970
    I enjoyed this book so much, I worry there is no possible way I could write a review worthy of the book. As lacking as my review might be (if I could give myself the kind of pep talk Keena gave herself - those were fantastic - I might have a chance of writing an acceptable review), this book is better than good or great - it's quality, and a treasure. It's not just the exciting adventures that Keena has in Kenya or in Botswana, when she lived in Baboon Camp and makes pretty admirable I enjoyed this book so much, I worry there is no possible way I could write a review worthy of the book. As lacking as my review might be (if I could give myself the kind of pep talk Keena gave herself - those were fantastic - I might have a chance of writing an acceptable review), this book is better than good or great - it's quality, and a treasure. It's not just the exciting adventures that Keena has in Kenya or in Botswana, when she lived in Baboon Camp and makes pretty admirable contributions, with her little sister Lucy, to her parents' research regarding the baboons, it's the way these adventures are expressed and told that make everything so vivid and so very interesting and exciting. Keena is a fabulous storyteller, who puts herself into everything - adventures, hopes, plans, challenges, fears, triumphs, tears - that she shares.And it's interesting to see how Keena ponders the question: Which is scarier (and possibly more dangerous)? Baboon camp (with its snakes, particularly mambas; lions; elephants, crocodiles - yes, man-eating; hippos, threats of fires, boat disasters, dehydration - just to name a few), or school in Pennsylvania? Keena must decide who she is, wherever she may be living, and how to be herself. Really, a fantastic, captivating, continually adventurous read I can't recommend highly enough!
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  • SundayAtDusk
    January 1, 1970
    After reading Keena Robert's memoir, I am going to assume the front cover photo is photoshopped, since one learns from the book that the hippopotamus is the most dangerous creature in all of Africa. Personally, I learned lots and lots of stuff about life in Africa that I did not know. Ms. Roberts fascinates the reader with all that she experienced as a child living in Botswana, part of the year, with her little sister and parents who were both primatologists. All that she had to do to be a part After reading Keena Robert's memoir, I am going to assume the front cover photo is photoshopped, since one learns from the book that the hippopotamus is the most dangerous creature in all of Africa. Personally, I learned lots and lots of stuff about life in Africa that I did not know. Ms. Roberts fascinates the reader with all that she experienced as a child living in Botswana, part of the year, with her little sister and parents who were both primatologists. All that she had to do to be a part of a primate studying camp, all that she had to do to not be injured or killed by a wild animal.While reading her story, I amusingly often thought that any helicopter parent who read the memoir would probably see it as a sick type of science fiction. Seriously, the things Keena Roberts and her sister Lucy were expected to learn and carry out would probably give a helicopter parent convulsions. Basically, the girls were treated like small adults from a very young age. On one hand, it showed how capable children are of doing difficult and dangerous tasks, when it is expected of them by their parents. On the other hand, one had to question the judgment of Ms. Robert's parents at times, had to question if they were lacking in some common parental protectiveness.Both her parents were scientific types, who apparently did not talk about feelings much, and were not physically demonstrative. Even back in the United States, during the school years when the girls were in a private Philadelphia school, her parents seemed strangely uninvolved in her life at times. For example, the author was harassed by boys on the phone for a long time, and her parents knew about it, but did nothing to stop it; even though they easily could have, since the calls were being made to the family's landline! Her mother sympathized with her about the calls, but apparently felt that was life and you just had to accept such things. Also, back in Botswana, she was allowed to drink beer and hard liquor even before entering high school. Don't get the wrong impression here, though, this memoir is thankfully not a parent bashing one, or even one that spends much time reflecting on family dynamics. (Amazing since the author majored in psychology at Harvard.) It's more of an adventure story, plus a look at what it is like to be considered really odd by many kids at school, because you were different, due to having a totally different life part of the year in Africa. Kids said really mean things to Ms. Roberts even in her senior year, after years of her trying to fit in with everyone else, trying to be somewhat invisible. It was a shame all the wildness of Africa, all the courage she had to have to live and survive there, didn't make her a bit more like a hippopotamus when she was in school in Philadelphia. She could have ripped the heads off of those mean kids! :)(Note: I received a free ARC of this book from Amazon Vine.)
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