Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Review: Wolves, Boys, and Other Things That Might Kill Me by Kristen Chandler

I'm not sure why this book took me so long to finish!?!  I read it for my district's reading club this past school year, but had about 50 pages to finish up when the group met.  Honestly, Wolves, Boys, and Other Things That Might Kill Me was such a fun and fresh new YA novel that I loved reading it.  Life got in the way at the time though, so I'm catching up, finishing up, and sharing it now!

Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "KJ Carson lives an outdoor lover’s dream. The only daughter of a fishing and wildlife guide, KJ can hold her own on the water or in the mountains near her hometown outside Yellowstone National Park. But when she meets the shaggy-haired, intensely appealing Virgil, KJ loses all self-possession. And she’s not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that they’re assigned to work together on a school newspaper article about the famous wolves of Yellowstone. As KJ spends time with Virgil, she also spends more time getting to know a part of her world that she always took for granted . . . and she begins to see herself and her town in a whole new light."

Review:  In short, Wolves, Boys, and Other Things That Might Kill Me feels fresh and new, untouched by any other writer that is out right now.  For that, I think that Kristen Chandler did an incredible job of taking a topic and turning it into an engaging teen read that I could hand to any of my high school students (and have).  Not only could I hand it to any student, but I also know that it's a great enough story to catch them up into a great reading experience.

Kristen Chandler's writing is precise and real.  I loved how the conversations between KJ and the other teens felt real, not contrived or made overly dramatic.  The teens in this story spoke like real teens, even if driven by convictions and ethics that make them admirable.  KJ is not just the ideal beauty queen or ugly duckling looking for reassurance from the male population.  In fact, I can't recall KJ, the teen, coming up hardly at all.  This story is about KJ, the daughter, friend, and peer; this is about KJ the activist and community member who wants to be heard.  For this, I think that this teen novel was an incredible read.

Although the wolf issues facing Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming are not hot button issues for much of the rest of the country, I can adamantly say that for my home state of Idaho it is beyond controversial.  I grew up an hour from Yellowstone Park and a mere 40 minutes from Island Park and other surrounding mountain areas where people ranch and farm.  Wolves are considered the ultimate evil to a cattle rancher.  Because of this status, the reintroduction of wolves sent every conservative farmer and rancher in the state on their heels, at the ready with their shotguns to protect their livestock.  Since moving out of state, I haven't followed the issue much, but do know that the wolves have flourished and I'm sure have spread outside the park.  To this issue, Kristen Chandler's novel tackles it head on, through the eyes of her teen protagonist and friends.  

There is a feel that this is a pro-wolf novel, but both sides of the issue seem nicely presented so that even if you were unfamiliar with all of the background on this issue, that you understood how both sides felt.  KJ's story shows how this issue has affected her family (a relationship with a single-parent father who isn't as plugged in as he should be), her community, and her school life.  As a writer on the school newspaper, KJ tackles the wolf issue by writing a column that looks at the wolves for what they are, an animal in a thriving ecosystem.  The controversy of writing about the wolves soon follows her into her out of school life and sets an engaging, dramatic story into motion.

I really enjoyed this YA novel and can't say enough about how fresh it felt.  Honestly, it was a breath of fresh air.  There is nothing paranormal, dystopian, or even that teen drama loaded in this novel, which makes it intriguing.  There is drama, there is romance, and there is teen to parent relationships being examined, but nothing that feels trite or overworked.  In short, I felt that this was a great read that seemed like uncharted territory.  

As a quick side note, I offered this novel for a book circle choice in my Popular Fiction class.  One of the groups selected it and quickly devoured it before it was due.  When they presented their final project, the group couldn't have been more glowing in their reviews and were highly defensive of it.  In fact, when a boy quipped that it looked like another dumb rip off of a shape-shifter novel, the group jumped all over his comment, telling them it wasn't remotely like anything they've read lately and a darn good book to boot.  I was impressed!  If you can impress some pretty well read teens, with pretty picky tastes and opinions, then you know it was a good read.

*FTC Disclosure:  This review was based off a personal copy of the novel.
What's the most recent, truly fresh-feeling novel you've read lately?  

1 comment:

  1. I thought overly dramatic statements was de rigueur for teenagers? No? ;)

    We don't have a lot of wolves around here, just foxes and coyotes.