I am trying to remember the name of a book I read in middle school, around 2001/2002.

I don't remember too many details but it is fantasy. It is about a young girl who lives with her stepmother in a walled society. The walls are said to be there to protect the inhabitants of the town from the dangerous wildlife that lives in the forest that surrounds the town.

It is believed that the girl's father was killed by a bear (or similar creature) outside the walls. The girl eventually sneaks outside of the walls and discovers that the wildlife is not as dangerous as she was led to believe and that her father is not dead.

She travels through the the forest and ends up finding her father and maybe her brother and discovers a lot about the corrupt society that is tricking the people to keep them contained.

In the end the girl escapes across a lake or river or other body of water in a boat.

If anyone knows the author or title, I would appreciate the help. Thank you!

  • Are you sure it was a full-length novel or book, and not a short story or a novella?
    – user14111
    Aug 31, 2015 at 23:57
  • Some aspects of this sound very similar to 'Gathering Blue' by Lois Lowry: a female protagonist told that her father was killed by a beast, and that the beasts beyond the edge of the village are deadly. But she doesn't live with her stepmother, and I don't believe that village was actually walled.
    – Liesmith
    Sep 1, 2015 at 11:34
  • Thank ya'll for thinking about it. It was definitely full length and not 'Gathering Blue.' The wall was a big part and I remember something about poisonous berries too, but I don't remember any details.
    – user51440
    Sep 2, 2015 at 23:19
  • @user51440 After reading the synopsis and doing my own research into it, I don't think it's The Dark Hills Divide as the answer I edited states, but I've added in more information for you.
    – Obsidia
    Jul 7, 2017 at 21:16
  • I've been looking for this book too. I don't have an answer, I'm sorry, but I do have one more piece of information that might help--I'm pretty sure the book was either set in (future) Maine, or was written by a Maine author, because I remember a sticker to that effect on the copy that I read, which was in a Maine state elementary school. I, too, remember the walled society, the dangerous (but not actually) bear-like beast, and the poisonous berries. If I find it I'll post here!
    – Theodore
    Nov 13, 2017 at 19:20

5 Answers 5


A helpful person on r/whatsthatbook found it for me!! The title is The Hermit Thrush Sings, by Susan Butler.

From goodreads:

Leora has a gift, and a secret. She can see things no one else can, but can only draw them with her one webbed hand.

Several generations have passed since North America was struck by a meteor that changed life forever. Now, Leora lives safely locked inside the walls of Village Three. Only the guards and croptenders are allowed out, where the world is said to be undeveloped and dangerous. Leora's heard stories of the ferocious birmbas -- half bear, half gorilla -- that resulted from the meteor. Mutants cannot be trusted.

But Leora herself is considered a "defective" with her hidden hand and gift. When she risks her life to free a baby birmba, she finds the courage to escape beyond the tyrannical walls without knowing what she may find.

  • If you are the original querent, and lost access to your account, let us know and we can help you merge your accounts.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Feb 6 at 20:47

It sounds like 'Parable of the Sower' by Octavia Butler to me. Here's a good description:

Parable of the Sower begins in Robledo, twenty miles from Los Angeles, California in July, 2024. It is the fifteenth birthday of Lauren, the narrator. She reports a dream she had the previous night in which she was flying. The house was on fire and she was swallowed up by the flames. Then the dream turns into a memory of when she was seven years old, talking with her stepmother under the stars at night. She lies down looking up at the stars. Her stepmother talks about the city lights, and how there are less of them now than there used to be.


These chapters introduce the frightening and violent society that is California in 2024. There has been a breakdown in civil society and in law and order. Society is split up into three groups. The rich have retreated to walled estates in the hills. In the city, middle class neighborhoods have constructed walls to try to hang on to a semblance of normality in their lives, but even the walls are not sufficient to stop thieves and arsonists breaking in and wreaking damage. Essential goods are scarce and expensive. Outside the walled neighborhoods, there is chaos. People have sunk into all kinds of degradation. Disease is rampant. Drug addicts walk the streets. Dead bodies lie in the streets for days. Many people are homeless and starving. The federal government talks about improving things, but it is largely irrelevant to most people's lives. The local police are not much use either. They charge a fee before they investigate a crime.

Against this grim background, Butler introduces her precocious heroine, Lauren, who from the evidence so far is a thoughtful, independent girl who likes to think for herself. She does not accept the beliefs of her elders, but tries to work out a system of her own that is true to her experience and accords with common sense and observation. She is also an "empath," someone who feels the pain of others. It is clear that life is not going to be easy for her.

The main character lives in a walled city with her father and step mother and her father does disappear and is assumed dead. Everything is run by a powerful corporation. She does escape the walled city and travels across country.

  • 1
    We really do encourage people to actually provide the information at a link, as links can die. As it is, there's a match in that there's a girl and it's post-apocalyptic. And there's a father, except that he's a major character in the book,not disappeared. And it's science fiction, not fantasy. Unless I'm misreading the summary you linked to?
    – FuzzyBoots
    Apr 8, 2016 at 3:21
  • I was trying to find a good description of the book, and unfortunately that was the best one I could come up with. You have to read each section if you want the full details of the story. The main character lives in a walled city with her father and step mother and her father does disappear and is assumed dead. Everything is run by a powerful corporation. She does escape the walled city and travels across country. Have you read the book? I have, and it definitely sounded like the description the OP posted.
    – Kyrellyan
    Apr 8, 2016 at 3:33
  • Ah. That wasn't what I got from scanning the site you provided. If you provide a summary like that, you'll come out with a much better answer.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Apr 8, 2016 at 12:04
  • I don't think this is right - OP's description doesn't sound like The Parable of the Sower to me - there's no forest outside the walls and there's not much about wildlife in it, IIRC
    – Zanna
    Dec 20, 2016 at 17:57

Is it the book "Running Out Of Time"? It's about a mother and daughter who live in a sort of a secret community and the girl escapes. I remember reading it in elementary school.

  • Nice answer! Any other details you can add in which might match the criteria?
    – Edlothiad
    Aug 9, 2017 at 8:42
  • 1
    Well, it's been 20 years since I read the book. This is an excerpt about the plot from Wikipedia - "Jessie Keyser is a 13-year-old girl from the village of Clifton, Indiana, in the 1840s. During a village-wide outbreak of diphtheria, Jessie's mother reveals it is 1996, and Clifton Village is a tourist attraction, a replica of a historical village. Her mother asks her to retrieve a cure for now her own sister Katie has taken ill; the owners of the attraction ceased to provide modern medical care to the villagers in order to preserve its authenticity."
    – Sarah
    Aug 9, 2017 at 22:10
  • Hey that's impressive in itself, good enough for me!
    – Edlothiad
    Aug 9, 2017 at 22:16
  • It might not be the same book, it doesn't quite sound like the same book now that I read the OP's description again.
    – Sarah
    Aug 9, 2017 at 22:18

It's Uglies by Scott Westerfield. I've just been trying to remember it too and stumbled upon this site and I found it!

"Uglies is a young-adult book set in a future post-scarcity dystopian world in which everyone is turned “Pretty” by extreme cosmetic surgery upon reaching age 16.

Under the surface, Uglies speaks of high-profile government conspiracies and the danger of trusting the omnipresent Big Brother. While the underlying story condemns war and all the side effects thereof, the true thrust of the story is that individual freedoms are far more important than the need for uniformity and the elimination of personal will."

96 Dystopian Science Fiction Books

  • 1
    The description doesn't seem to match in any way. Can you be more specific about why you think this is the right book...
    – Valorum
    Sep 1, 2017 at 1:03

It sounds like it could be The Dark Hills Divide, the first book in the Land of Elyon series. The book was published in 2005, but it looks like it fits most of the other criteria. Here's a summary of the plot from Amazon, maybe it might help you remember it if this is the book you're looking for:

An extraordinary debut weaving magic and heroism into a classic tale of good and evil, featuring a heroine you'll never forget.


Inquisitive twelve-year-old Alexa Daley is spending another summer in the walled town of Bridewell. This year, she is set on solving the mystery of what lies beyond the walls. Legend says the walls were built to keep out an unnamed evil that lurks in the forests and The Dark Hills. But what exactly is it that the townspeople are so afraid of? As Alexa begins to unravel the truth, pushing beyond the protective barrier she's lived behind all her life, she discovers a strange and ancient enchantment -- and exposes a danger that could destroy everything she holds dear.

Amazon has more reviews describing the book, and most of them seem to be relatively without spoilers.

  • 2
    Why do you think this is the answer? You explanation is the most important part. Jul 7, 2017 at 20:51

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