Becka Sutton's Reviews > Peter the Wolf

Peter the Wolf by Zoe E. Whitten
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's review
Aug 13, 2011

really liked it
Read in August, 2011

Short Review: A dark, gritty tale of a scarred teen trying to live in a world that doesn't want to accept him or his scars. This story can be uncomfortable reading because it forces the reader to confront both the pain of the abused and their own predjudices. The blatant supernatural elements emerge so late in the narrative that they would jar a reader who didn't know this was a werewolf novel. The story is saved from being off-puttingly grim by the seamless integration of humour and lighter scenes, along with the fact bright thread of hope in the story. Well worth a read.

Long Review: Peter the Wolf is the story of Peter Holmes (formerly Lupita, before the court allowed him to change his name), a fifteen year old abuse survivor. Now with his fourth foster family at the start of the story, he really is only surviving. After he reported his parents for using him and his sister in child porn and for murdering her, his parents were jailed and he was placed in Care. Society has been failing him ever since. And there is a secret Peter doesn't know about his family and himself: he's a lycanthrope, albeit one who can't change yet as he needs a wolf pelt. His emotional scars and his very real inner beast make him very volatile indeed. "Dear God, please don't make me a monster," he prays near the beginning. And that conflict, that fear, informs everything that happens in the story.

I'm also an abuse survivor (though not anything like what happened to Peter) and sometimes this story made me angry, not with the author but with society. Because it really does want you to ignore it so it will go away. It doesn't go away. If you have supportive people and good help (like I did) you learn to live and cope. If you don't, then you just end up with more scars until there's nothing but pain and scars. Peter is very much in the latter category and while he's finally fallen in with supportive people, there's an alarming sense of too little, too late. I hurt for him on so many levels.

This is testament to the author's skill. I feel for the character as if he were a real person. The other characters are just as artfully real.

Peter's relationship with Alice might well upset some readers. This is not a story that shies away from dealing with the sexual fallout of long-term sexual abuse. Indeed, that fallout is why Peter is so terrified he might become a monster. Alice is younger than Peter and we see, in detail, how Peter's scars affect him. Peter loves - genuinely loves - Alice and knows they have to wait, but she's young and in the first flush of puberty hormones and awaking sexuality. Some people would no doubt think this was unreasonable because children don't act that way. But if they didn't, we wouldn't live in a world where twelve and thirteen year olds are ending up on the sex offenders' list for things they do with other underage kids. People don't like inconvenient truths, especially not about sex.

The initial supernatural elements of the story are very subtle. Peter doesn't know his nature, so it doesn't come up. He thinks of himself as a wolf but doesn't realise it isn't just a metaphor for the mess his abuse has left him in. He doesn't find out he's not human until fairly late on. This may be a problem for some readers, since the first two parts of the book read mostly like a rather gritty mainstream psychological thriller before the supernatural stuff arrives. If the supernatural elements were stripped out and those scenes just slightly rewritten, that's exactly what you'd have. Fans of urban fantasy may find the first bits hard going, while fans of dark mainstream thrillers might well find the supernatural elements off-putting. This would be a pity but I can see it might happen.

Now with all I've said here you might think that this story sounds really grim and hard work. It isn't, because seamlessly interwoven with the dark and the pain are moments of joy and humour that give release. Life's like that, so it just makes the whole thing taste more real. And through the whole thing is a thread of hope - even when Peter thinks things are hopeless - that no matter how bad things are, they can get better.

Painful, hopeful and thought-provoking, Peter the Wolf needs to be read with an open mind and heart to be fully appreciated. Well worth reading. What are you waiting for?

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