CW: Mentions of assault
This. Book. Is. Everything. When a publicist got in touch and told me about The Wild Ones, I was instantly hooked. A roving band of girls that weaponize their screams in retaliation for the times they’ve been silenced? Absolutely yes count me in immediately. What this book contains is much much more than just a story about finding one’s voice.
The Wild Ones are a semi-magical gang of girls (all women of color), headed by Paheli. Given the ability to use a magical corridor between cities called the Between, the girls all have stars embedded in their palms. Years ago, Paheli was given a box of these stars by a boy that has the same golden stars in his eyes. When he shows up again, this is the catalyst for their most important mission, possibly ever.
So let’s break this down, (but no spoilers!) because the plot is beautifully complex, and takes place all over the world (primarily in India, and various countries in the Middle East). The Wild Ones travel around, healing from the trauma in their human lives, helping others they find in similar situations, and enjoying global culinary delights.
Nafiza Azad has written a nuanced and revolutionary book. One of my pet peeves in adventure stories is when characters seem to be able to forgo things like food and sleep. The Wild Ones prioritize rest and delicious food, particularly desserts. Think about the last time you read a text where women of color were entirely autonomous and relished in the things that make them happy. A Wild One’s personal sense of safety and security is of the utmost importance, as well as feeling empowered to harness one’s anger at the injustice in the world (especially towards women and girls).
The Wild Ones was kindly sent by Simon & Schuster, but all opinions are my own.
To compliment the novel, I decided to make some recipes from a newly released cookbook! Middle Eastern Sweets by Salma Hage came out last week, and has recipes from a variety of the countries mentioned within The Wild Ones.
I made Lebanese drop donuts with orange blossom syrup (pages 200 & 82), honey yogurt pops with pistachio (I just made a sheet tray for quick freezing and scooped it; p 108), tahini & chocolate date truffles (p 90) and my own double strawberry chocolate chip ice cream. Paheli has a fond love of ice cream, so I knew I had to try and make a flavor for her with ingredients that grow in my area (which unfortunately doesn’t include mangoes).
I received a digital ARC from Phaidon of this cookbook, and am looking forward to trying many more recipes! I’m currently on the hunt for sahlep so I can make Syrian ice cream, and I really want to make the ricotta fritters with rose petal jam. The photography is beautiful and I really appreciate when a cookbook has lots of photos so I know what I should be aspiring to recreate.
Nafiza Azad is a self-identified island girl. She has hurricanes in her blood and dreams of a time she can exist solely on mangoes and pineapple. Born in Lautoka, Fiji, she currently resides in British Columbia, Canada where she reads too many books, watches too many K-dramas, and writes stories about girls taking over the world. Her debut YA fantasy was the Morris Award–nominated The Candle and the Flame. The Wild Ones is her second novel.