Kris's Reviews > Tell the Wolves I'm Home

Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
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Sep 06, 2015

really liked it
bookshelves: book-club, library
Recommended for: anyone

This is probably not a book I would have ever picked up off the shelves. I don't usually like modern literature, because it seems to be either full of unlikable, neurotic characters, or it is so obviously engineered to tug at your heartstrings, full of artificial emotions. But this book was chosen by our book club (as part of our library's book club recommended books), so I read it. And I'm glad I did!

It is set in the 80's (which is important to the story), and the narrator is 14-year-old June Elbus. June is a misfit - a bit of a history nerd, who fantasizes about living in the middle ages. Her older sister, Greta, is the "pretty one" and is a budding stage star who seemingly has everything together. June's uncle is the famous artist, Finn Weiss, and he is dying of AIDS. Finn is not just June's uncle - he is her godfather, and basically her only real friend.

After Finn's death, June is bereft and having difficulty coping. Her mother wants her to "get over it" and get on with life, but June just can't seem to. Then she ends up meeting the mysterious stranger who was at Finn's funeral, but who was denied entrance. She becomes friends with him, and learns more about Finn, and about her family and herself.

Having the book set at the time when AIDS was just becoming known in the mainstream, and at a time when homosexuality was not as openly accepted, allows the story to have sharper emotional arcs. The fear of AIDS and the denigration of gays add to the already fragile family dynamic and to June's difficulties in handling what is happening.

This book has many themes: it's partly a coming-of-age story, but it also deals extremely well with the highs and lows of having a sister. The relationships between June and Greta is handled exquisitely. No one can love you and simultaneously hate you like a sister - and the author nails this. The character of June is also outstanding. Her fears, her hopes, her emotions are all quite true to life, without being too whiny, as many teen protagonists end up being. This ability to portray teen life (both outward and inward) is one of the many strengths of this book.

And, despite the fact that it deals with AIDS, and fear and prejudice against gays, it never falls into the trap of being preachy, nor is it ever maudlin. Because the characters seem so real, the events that transpire never feel contrived. It really captures what it feels like to be 14 and trying to navigate a big, scary world. June Elbus is a strong, believable, and likable character, and her story is one that anyone can relate to.
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Reading Progress

September 6, 2015 – Started Reading
September 6, 2015 – Shelved
September 6, 2015 – Shelved as: book-club
September 6, 2015 – Shelved as: library
September 7, 2015 – Finished Reading

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