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Review: Wild @ Heart

Chino wants to fall in love. Of course she’d also like a normal family with a father who wasn’t always running off to explore the wild corners of the world, but she’d be more than happy with a boyfriend. So far, though, she’s had no luck getting one. But when her father returns from his latest excursion, he brings back Hyo, a boy raised in the wild jungles of a lost island. Hyo’s wild manners are embarrassing, but Chino can’t help but notice how cute he is. Is Hyo boyfriend material or will Chino be loveless once more?

Wild @ Heart
Natsumi Ando
Publisher Age Rating: Y/Youth 10+; GCFK Age Rating: Ages 10-13/Grades 5-8
Del Rey Manga/Kodansha, October 2010, ISBN 978-0-345-51577-3
544 pages, $21.99

Ando, creator of the manga version of Del Rey’s popular Kitchen Princess series (which is based a scenario written by Miyuki Kobayashi), returns with an older series, bringing tween and teenage girls a story as fluffy and as sweet as cotton candy. She doesn’t waste a lot of time worrying about deep thoughts or the troubles of the world. Instead she focuses on the innocent desire for a boyfriend. Her characters are almost more in love with love than with each other, but that is common for this type of first romance and it is touching to see it portrayed in manga form. A secondary theme about parental acceptance will also be relevant to the intended audience and will make them identify with the characters even more.

There aren’t too many characters, which is good for a quick, easy read like this one. Chino is the ordinary girl caught up in an unusual situation. Hyo is just extraordinary enough to stand out, but still realistic enough to be a good romantic lead. Chino’s friend Machiko and Shingo, the boy who likes her, offer a different example of how to fall in love, useful for helping Chino and Hyo realize their feelings. And rich girl Tsubame is the complication which drives the finale. There are a few adults scattered in, but not too many to get in the way of the middle school aged main characters.

Ando’s art style has always been super cute and her work here is no different. This series pre-dates her work on Kitchen Princess, so it is a slight bit rougher. But fans will still recognize her gigantic eyes, blushing cheeks, and pages filled with sparkles, flowers, and other types of shading. There’s a lot of action, mostly played for comic relief, but Ando’s work has a breezy quality that moves things along rapidly while still keeping the events clear and easy to follow.

As a series, Wild @ Heart is only three volumes long and Del Rey’s recent switch towards releasing omnibus editions means that the entire series is presented here in one volume. It’s a nice thing for both readers and libraries. The format is not too large to hold; the binding seems sturdy enough; and the price is a third less than it would be if the three volumes were sold separately. I’m thrilled that Del Rey decided to bring back the too seldom used Y/10+ rating for this series. The art doesn’t get more mature than some very chaste kisses, a scene where Hyo accidentally lifts Chino’s skirt, and the scene where Chino and Hyo meet (he’s in the bath; she’s wrapped in a towel). There are a lot of shots of Hyo with no shirt on, but Chino and the other girls are always fully dressed. This is a nice choice for libraries wanting tween and early teen aged romances, but not wanting to spend too much money or take up too much shelf space.

This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Del Rey/Kodansha.

Snow Wildsmith About Snow Wildsmith

Snow Wildsmith is a writer and former teen librarian. She has served on several committees for the American Library Association/Young Adult Library Services Association, including the 2010 Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She reviews graphic novels for Booklist, ICv2's Guide, No Flying No Tights, and Good Comics for Kids and also writes booktalks and creates recommended reading lists for Ebsco's NoveList database. Currently she is working on her first books, a nonfiction series for teens.

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