As this is somehow my first “official” review in my blog’s life, I invite you to take a quick look at my note about reviews entry. I’m not into book reports so much. I’d rather write here as if I were discussing a book with a friend, recommending or warning off the books I’ve read. I won’t be diving into allegory or symbolism… I’m not nearly that literarily sophisticated. I read books and I either like them or I don’t. Boom, Bazooka Joe.
So! With that said… I just finished reading Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt.
Brief Synopsis: It’s 1987 and fourteen-year-old June is thrown into a journey of self discovery when her Uncle Finn dies of AIDS. Finn, who is also June’s godfather and best friend, is the only person who June felt understood her. All is not lost, however, because she makes an unlikely and surprising friend who misses Finn just as much as she does. At its heart, this book is about the pain of loss and the triumph of love and where we find the strength to carry on.
Rating: 3/5 Stars
Overall impression: Beautifully written and perfectly paced. This book has a TON of positive buzz on Goodreads (and beyond) and rightly so. I only rated it a 3 because I took issue with some story elements that are preventing me from launching a full on gush-fest. Overall, I enjoyed the read—couldn’t put it down, actually—and would recommend adding it to your queue, but no need to rush.
WARNING: There is a high potential for spoilers beyond this point. This part of the review is generally for people who have already read the book and are looking for someone who agreed or disagreed with their own opinion. You’ve been warned.
What I liked:
- Like I mentioned above, I thought this book was beautifully crafted. There were quite a few times when I had to pause and think, “Damn, that was an excellent turn of phrase.”
- I found myself thinking about the characters often throughout the day, particularly Finn, Toby and June.
- I think this book perfectly captures what it’s like to be young, awkward, and trying to figure out how to find your own place in the world.
What I didn’t like:
- I feel like we lost something in the narrator being a shy, self conscious 14-year-old. While I think it’s commendable and inventive to approach the delicate topics of AIDS, loss, and jealousy from the perspective of an innocent, I feel as though this would have been a more satisfying read if June were more bold and willing to ask the hard questions.
- Is it Finn that gave Toby AIDS? I feel like this is what we’re supposed to assume, but again, June doesn’t want to ask the direct question, so we don’t get a direct answer.
- I didn’t buy June’s sister, Greta, AT ALL. I get that sibling relationships can be strained, but Greta just felt evil to me. She was manipulative, deceptive, and mean for seemingly no reason. The reason that is eventually given just wasn’t good enough for me and her redemption felt half hearted. Quite honestly, I was I was waiting for it to be revealed that she was being molested by the director of the school play. There seemed to be a lot of foreshadowing suggesting this but it never materialized.
- I never could get my mind around June’s supposed “wrong” love for her uncle. Why couldn’t she have just been fond of him? Everyone knows what it’s like to have a favorite family member… adding the infatuation and feeling of being in love with her uncle gave the story a creepy and uncomfortable feeling I never quite got past.