Jason Wilder is a high school senior who doesn’t actually attend classes. Instead, he spends his time in the Rubber Room…for his own protection.
Officially, it was In-School Suspension, but kids called it the Rubber Room. It wasn’t covered in rubber, but it was delinquent proof. […] The Rubber Room was set up to prevent tragedies like school shootings, or at least to make it look like you could prevent them.
Jason set a fire that hurt someone and now he’s a target. The thing about Jason is that he’s big and tough and, according to Meili, “a danger because [he] wants to be.”
Meili is in the Rubber Room because, according to the story that’s been passed around and likely exaggerated, she broke someone’s finger. She’s not afraid of Jason or his reputation for violence; she is fearless, mysterious, and just a tad crazy.
These are the characters in Andrew Simonet’s debut YA novel, Wilder.
Despite his propensity for violence, Jason is a sympathetic character. He has a distinctive voice and a troubling backstory. He lives alone; his mother and her boyfriend, Al, have moved to Florida, apparently to dry out. He lives in their crappy house existing on the little bit of money they send home to him. Because he is on probation for setting the fire, he can’t let anyone know that he lives alone. It’s not that hard to keep it a secret; Jason doesn’t really have any friends. Until Meili.
It is clear from early on in the story that something happens to Jason and Meili. Jason informs us
I have lots of time now to think about what happened. I’m straightening out how one thing led to the next, how I got drawn in, how things became inevitable.
Other people have their ideas, what should have happened, what I did and didn’t do. Meili has her version. This is my story, what it’s like inside my skin.
It is no wonder Jason and Meili are drawn to each other. It is also no wonder why things end up going horribly wrong.
I never want Meili – or anyone – to be so betrayed and broken. But if we’re gonna live in a world where that happens, I want this. I want her thrashing sobs and gut screams. I want to clench my body to hers and tumble. I want this velocity. I want my share.
Wilder is full of forward momentum. I found it a compelling read, by it’s definitely for mature readers. There is violence, lots of swearing and some fairly explicit sex.