In a revelatory investigation of human and animal adolescence and young adulthood, the New York Times-bestselling authors of Zoobiquity have created an entirely new way of thinking about the crucial, vulnerable, and exhilarating phase of life between childhood and adulthood across the animal kingdom.
... the book’s scholarly and subtle approach avoids glib claims about how sharing a hormone like dopamine with shrimp and penguins means we are all the same. Wildhood has enough humility to see that the gulf between us and other species isn’t uncrossable, but is still very real ... No book about adolescence would be complete without a discussion of teenage sex, and here Wildhood shines ... It’s hard to write about amazing animals without being anthropomorphic, but Ms. Natterson-Horowitz and Ms. Bowers mostly succeed. Wildhood is also quite vertebrate-centric, even though adolescence, or something like it, can be seen in insects, crustaceans and a host of other spineless creatures. Nevertheless, readers will come away with an appreciation for a host of other qualities—friendship, social status, cooperation, leaving home and coming back—that are rooted in that one crucial stage of life.
It's refreshing to see this acknowledgment of how similar we humans are to other animals. Yet it could fairly be asked, how informative is this sort of specific comparison really? After all, while adolescent animals often need to negotiate complex family dynamics and group dominance hierarchies, they don't face the pressures of overdue student loans and mental health crises — or sexism or racism. The culturally constructed, power-based inequalities in the human world are qualitatively different ... too often the direct analogies undertaken in Wildhood between humans and other animals go way too far. When the text leaps from 'seriously depressed adolescents and young adult humans' in one paragraph to 'defeated lobsters and hyenas' in the next, good science has been left behind ... And it's simply not sensible — or wise — to compare the mobbing behavior of songbirds that dive-bomb a house cat with the marching from Selma to Montgomery of activists who fought for civil rights ... Despite these problems, there's fascinating material in Wildhood backed up with copious notes from the authors' reading of the scientific literature ... I found Wildhood a mixed blessing. Understanding the lives of animals can illuminate our own — and those of loved adolescents in our lives too. Pushing these cross-species links too far, however, does justice to no one.
...Natterson-Horowitz and Bowers — both of whom have raised teenage offspring — have amassed a mountain of findings from scientific literature, interviews with animal researchers and field observations of their own ... The vivid storytelling and fascinating scientific digressions in Wildhood make it a pleasurable read. It’s also a book parents may find reassuring: The authors show that the often painful struggles human and animal adolescents go through are a way of developing the skills and experience that will make it possible for them to function as adults ... The awareness that we’re all in this together ought to motivate humans to stop ravaging the planet so it can continue to be a place where adolescents of many different species can find their ways into adulthood.