Wilhelm, Doug 1952–
Wilhelm, Doug 1952–
Born 1952, in Portland, OR; married (divorced); children: Bradley. Education: Kenyon College, B.A. (English), 1974. Hobbies and other interests: Music, travel.
Home and office—Rutland, VT. E-mail—[email protected]
Journalist and author. Bernardsville News, Bernardsville, NJ, journalist, c. 1976-78; Randolph Reporter, founding editor, 1978-80; English teacher and freelance writer in Kathmandu, Nepal, 1981-82; cabinetmaker's assistant in Worcester, VT, 1983-85; VT correspondent for Boston Globe, 1985-90; freelance writer and editor, 1985—.
Indiana Young Hoosier Book Award nomination, 2005, for Raising the Shades; Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Book of the Year designation, and YALSA Top Ten Books for Teens designation, both 2004, Land of Enchantment Book Award nomination, 2006, Sunshine State Young Readers' Award, and Nevada Young Readers' Award, both 2007, and South Carolina Junior Book Award, 2008, all for The Revealers.
Raising the Shades, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2001.
The Revealers, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2003.
Falling, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2007.
"CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE" SERIES
The Forgotten Planet, Bantam (New York, NY), 1993.
Scene from the Crime, Bantam (New York, NY), 1993.
The Secret of Mystery Hill, Bantam (New York, NY), 1993.
Search the Amazon!, Bantam (New York, NY), 1994.
Gunfire at Gettysburg, Bantam (New York, NY), 1994.
Shadow of the Swastika, Bantam (New York, NY), 1995.
The Gold Medal Secret, Bantam (New York, NY), 1996.
The Underground Railroad, Bantam (New York, NY), 1996.
Doug Wilhelm is a Vermont-based writer who worked for a number of years as a journalist and freelance writer before beginning the text for his first book for young readers. The opportunity to write a series of "Choose Your Own Adventure" novel in the 1990s gave him his start in middle-grade fiction, and Wilhelm has continued to focus on the pre-teen and young teen readership in his original novels Raising the Shades, The Revealers, and Falling.
In Raising the Shades a thirteen year old finds himself taking on the responsibilities of someone twice his age while trying to deal with an alcoholic parent. After his mom and sister move away, Casey Butterfield is left alone to cope with his dad. Despite the intervention of a caring relative, the teen does not want to admit that the situation is more than he can handle, until something happens that helps him see the relationship between him and his dad for what it really is. Although Jean Franklin noted in Booklist that Wilhelm's story resolves too tidily, the critic added that the Raising the Shades contains "plenty that rings true enough to draw readers into Casey's troubled life." "The characters and their interactions are often achingly realistic," maintained a Publishers Weekly contributor, while in School Library Journal Ginny Gustin predicted that Raising the Shades "would be a suitable book for a therapist or counselor to recommend to a young client" dealing with the emotions surrounding a parent's substance-abuse problem.
Wilhelm turns his attention to teen substance abuse in Falling, which focuses on a slightly older protagonist. Matt Shaw is a freshman in high school in Rutland, Vermont, where he and his older brother, Neal, both live for basketball. When Neal does not receive a basketball scholarship, he quits the sport and turns to drugs. Matt, a star player during middle school, now quits the game in a supportive protest. Although Matt feels helpless as he watches his older brother ruin his life and make increasingly self-destructive choices, he keeps Neal's secret from everyone, until he finds a confidante in Katie, a fellow freshman. While Shannon Seglin contended in School Library Journal that the denial of Neal's parents as to their son's dilemma seems somewhat difficult to accept, "Matt's dilemma is real and heartfelt, and the dialogue [in Falling] is on target." The plot twists leading up to the story's climax "will have teens turning the pages," predicted a Kirkus Reviews contributor, and in Kliatt Myrna Marler recommended the novel for reluctant readers on the strength of Wilhelm's "excellent eye for detail" and skill in writing "crisp dialogue."
Three seventh graders who have been targeted by bullies at Parkland Middle School decide to fight back via the Internet in The Revealers, Wilhelm's second Y-A novel. Russell, the story's narrator, joins Catalina and Elliot to take a stand against schoolyard harassment by posting a letter on the Web. The support they receive encourages the trio to start an underground online forum called the Darkland Revealer. As more and more students come forward to share their encounters with bullies, the behavior is exposed and begins to diminish. However, when the principal attempts to stop the forum due to worries that it will reflect badly upon the school, the three teens must do more than just editorialize. "Wilhelm develops the story in surprising ways," noted a Publishers Weekly contributor, "and … most of the dynamics … reflect secure knowledge of middle-graders and their behavior." In Booklist Ilene Cooper cited Russell's "earnest first-person narrative" in The Revealers as one that reflects frustrations of many teens dealing with a similar situation, and in Kliatt Debra Smith praised the novel's "realistic depiction of the dread and frustration of being a bully's victim." "Briskly plotted," Wilhelm's story illustrates "how bringing the stories to light transforms stereotypes into real people and provides a vehicle for others to become involved," concluded School Library Journal reviewer Mary R. Hoffmann.
The Revealers was inspired by Wilhelm's own childhood experiences, and he discusses his motivation for writing the novel on his home page. "People are more and more aware that bullying isn't just a harmless phase of growing up," he explained. "Grown-up bullies seem to be everywhere, these days … and a strikingly large portion of young people who've been involved in school shootings, like the Columbine killers, were severely bullied in their schools. I personally think awareness—just paying attention—is the most important thing. People are paying a lot more attention to bullying these days—and as someone who was bullied growing up, I hope this new attention will help a lot of kids feel less alone…. I hope The Revealers will do that, too. When I hear that it has, I feel tremendously gratified by that."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, July, 2001, Jean Franklin, review of Raising the Shades, p. 2000; November 1, 2003, Ilene Cooper, review of The Revealers, p. 497; March 15, 2007, Hazel Rochman, review of Falling, p. 45.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2003, review of The Revealers, p. 1185; March 15, 2007, review of Falling.
Kliatt, July, 2005, Debra Smith, review of The Revealers, p. 26; March, 2007, Myrna Marler, review of Falling, p. 20.
Publishers Weekly, April 23, 2001, review of Raising the Shades, p. 79; November 3, 2003, review of The Revealers, p. 75.
School Library Journal, May, 2001, Ginny Gustin, review of Raising the Shades, p. 160; November, 2003, Mary R. Hoffmann, review of The Revealers, p. 150; July, 2007, Shannon Seglin, review of Falling, p. 111.
Doug Wilhelm Home Page,http://www.the-revealers.com (June 6, 2008).
Kenyon College Alumnae Bulletin Online,http://bulletin.kenyon.edu/ (June 15, 2008), "Doug Wilhelm '74 Discovers His Voice."