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“It blew my mind to discover that teenage animals and teenage humans are so similar. Both are naive risk-takers. I loved this book!” —Temple Grandin, author of Animals Make Us Human and Animals in Translation
A revelatory investigation of human and animal adolescence and young adulthood from the New York Times bestselling authors of Zoobiquity.
With Wildhood, Harvard evolutionary biologist Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and award-winning science writer Kathryn Bowers 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.
In their critically acclaimed bestseller, Zoobiquity, the authors revealed the essential connection between human and animal health. In Wildhood, they turn the same eye-opening, species-spanning lens to adolescent young adult life. Traveling around the world and drawing from their latest research, they find that the same four universal challenges are faced by every adolescent human and animal on earth: how to be safe, how to navigate hierarchy; how to court potential mates; and how to feed oneself. Safety. Status. Sex. Self-reliance. How human and animal adolescents and young adults confront the challenges of wildhood shapes their adult destinies.
Natterson-Horowitz and Bowers illuminate these core challenges through the lives of four animals in the wild: Ursula, a young king penguin; Shrink, a charismatic hyena; Salt, a matriarchal humpback whale; and Slavc, a roaming European wolf. Through their riveting stories—and those of countless others, from adventurous eagles and rambunctious high schooler to inexperienced orcas and naive young soldiers—readers get a vivid and game-changing portrait of adolescent young adults as a horizontal tribe, sharing behaviors and challenges, setbacks and triumphs.
Upending our understanding of everything from risk-taking and anxiety to the origins of privilege and the nature of sexual coercion and consent, Wildhood is a profound and necessary guide to the perilous, thrilling, and universal journey to adulthood on planet earth.
Human teens have much in common with their counterparts throughout the animal kingdom and those commonalities are eye-opening as described in the latest from biologist Natterson-Horowitz and science journalist Bowers (coauthors of Zoobiquity). They reveal how a wide variety of species, fruit flies and pumas alike, must negotiate four competencies while entering adulthood: safety, socialization, sex, and self-reliance. Readers follow Ursula, a king penguin; Shrink, a hyena; Salt, a humpback whale; and Slavc, a wolf, as they deal with sex, friendship, and parents. Cultural references pepper the narrative (Katniss Everdeen is used as an example of youthful survival skills) and lighten the mood (while "ABBA and the Bee Gees were on the Billboard Hot 100..., a young whale found her first love"). Harsh reality also plays a role: as with humans, the teens of other species can and do put themselves in peril (a biologist relates a rite of passage among California sea otters, of entering the great white inhabited "triangle of death" off the coast). But this work is ultimately reassuring as in its message that "the joys, the tragedies, the passions" of adolescence are not senseless, but "make exquisite evolutionary sense" and should appeal to anyone who's ever raised an adolescent, human or otherwise.