In the short story "Wilding" by Jane Yolen, Central Park in New York has been turned into a sort of gaming area in which people turn into animals or animal-like creatures. Whether they become predators or prey, they have to make their way safely through the park to the exit. They wear collars that remind them of their humanity, but the main character doesn't wear hers and almost gets killed by a murderer who has entered the park illicitly.
The main character is a 16-year-old girl named Zena. Her mother gives her nicknames like Zen and Princess, but she resents these. In fact, until the end of the story she seems to resent her mother in general, lying to her about completing her homework and about whether or not she will wear her collar. Zena is acutely conscious about wanting to fit in with her friends and appear "coolish," and for this reason she is careful about what she wears and the makeup she puts on. Her rebellion against her mother and desire to be coolish results in her not wearing the protective collar, which almost gets her killed.
The other characters in the story only appear briefly and are secondary. Nick is her boyfriend. Zena describes him as "coolish" and a bit dangerous, and someone he would never bring home to meet her mother. Marnie is a friend that Zena has known since preschool. Lazio is Nick's cousin who seems to be going with Marnie. These four meet together to go through the entrance gate to the Wilding, but once they are inside the park and Zena converts into a monkey, she loses touch with them and doesn't see them again until she is in the hospital at the end of the story.
Zena's mother is a typically concerned mom. She appears once at the beginning of the story to remind Zena to wear her collar, and again at the end when Zena is in the hospital.
Zena's killer is not named, but her rescuer describes him as a murderer of three other girls. He sought out girls without collars, who had less control over their human behavior, to stalk and kill.
The rescuer's name is Carl Barkham. He describes himself as a Max; these are people who help control the Wild Things and keep the park safe. Zena becomes inspired by Barkham to become a Max herself, which motivates her to cease her childish behavior and even to study more.