Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Storytime Series

tell the wolves i'm homeI love when I read a book and it's so surprisingly, wonderfully good and then I discover that this the author's first book. It makes you think that there could be all sorts of wonderful books in the future. At least I hope so! Tell the Wolves I'm Home surprised me. As with most of my Storytime Series books, my mom recommended this one to me. In fact, I finagled the Nook app onto my Kindle so that I could read under her account. It's electronic book borrowing :) Anyway, all I knew was that this book was set in New York during the big AIDS epidemic that, sorry not sorry, always makes me think of Rent.

So I was surprised when I opened this book and realized that a young girl was telling this story.

The Story

“I thought of all the different kinds of love in the world. I could think of ten without even trying. The way parents love their kids, the way you love a puppy or chocolate ice cream or home or your favorite book or your sister. Or your uncle. There's those kinds of love and then there's the other kind. The falling kind.” 
― Carol Rifka BruntTell the Wolves I'm Home

June is 14, lives in the suburbs with her parents who are accountants and simply not around that much, and she wishes she lived in medieval times with castles and no electricity. She loves her uncle because he doesn't make her feel silly about any of that. He nurtures that imaginative side in her. But her uncle has AIDS and well, it gets complicated.

It turns out that there's a very tricky family history between June's uncle and mother and a lot of secrets.  June's perception of her family members, even of her life at school starts to change, and she starts to grow up. So yes, this is kind of one of those coming of age stories, but it's way better than I can describe because I'm a big believer in not spoiling stories.

The Characters

This book is full of interesting characters. The most intriguing of these to me was June's sister, Greta. In the beginning of the book, she just seems like a mean, big sister. But it's not so cliche as that and you start wondering what's REALLY going on with Greta. She's so mean, yet you can tell that she really does care about June and vice versa. It's a fascinating relationship and sometimes you just want to scream at June when she doesn't understand the things Greta does.

“She was wired into my heart. Twisted and kinked and threaded right through.” 
― Carol Rifka BruntTell the Wolves I'm Home

June is of course, a great protagonist and narrator. She gives us her very biased and whimsical opinion on things. She sees the world in a very interesting way and there were so many times when I was reading that I just loved the way she described things. She talks like a little kid who sees things clearly, but in a way that you had never thought about and you wonder why it is it's taken you so long to see them that way. Or if maybe you did and time has erased that beautiful simplicity from your brain.

“The bed was warm and ordinary and perfect, and it had been such a long, long day. Probably the longest day of my life. I felt like I had proof that not all days are the same length, not all time has the same weight. Proof that there are worlds and worlds and worlds on top of worlds, if you want them to be there.” 
― Carol Rifka BruntTell the Wolves I'm Home

And then there are the parents and the uncle, who all get more interesting as you learn more about them. You can see why June is so enchanted by her cool uncle and you can see why her parents have a hard time with that. But I just can't tell you more without spoiling anything! Trust me, it's interesting and makes you think about your family and appreciating them.

Who Will Like This Book?

You have to enjoy a little whimsy to appreciate this book. June tells the story and June loves "other worlds," so she's not always very literal and she likes to ramble. Basically, if you enjoy this blog you would enjoy June's story too ;)

“...What’s the one superpower of June Elbus?”
I thought about myself from head to toe. It was like being forced to read the most boring part of the Sears catalog. Like leafing through the bathroom accessories pages. Boring brain. Boring face. No sex appeal. Clumsy hands.
“Heart. Hard heart,” I said, not sure where it came from. “The hardest heart in the world.”
“Hmmm,” Toby said, tapping a finger in the air. “That’s a useful one, you know. Very handy. The question is . . .” Toby paused like he was considering this all very seriously.
“What’s the question?”
“The question is, stone or ice? Crack or melt?” 
― Carol Rifka BruntTell the Wolves I'm Home

It's ultimately a character story with really vivid characters that never fall into any sort of cliche categories. I love that. It's my favorite kind of story, and there's even a bit of suspense as you learn all the family secrets and the ins and outs of their relationships.

I highly recommend! If you read it, you'll fly through it. If you've read it, leave a comment and let me know how you liked it!