Books like this are the reason why I read.
Sometimes, I read books that I despise. These books rub me the wrong way, in terms of character, plot, or style. Sometimes, I like reading these books. They’re fun to bash, and they remind me of what’s important to me, and what a ‘good book’ means to me. I did not like the last book I read, and I think that might have made Tell the Wolves I’m Home just that much sweeter.
I love this book. It came to me just when I needed it most.
Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt is about AIDS, but it’s not about AIDS. I found it searching for a book about the illness, but what I got was much better. It’s a story about family, and relationships, and the so many different types of love in the world, and how sometimes it’s hard to tell one from the next. It’s about art and illness and making the most of this mess we call life. It’s about grief, and uncles, and sisters, and…. life. It’s about life.
June is such a wonderful character. She’s so relatable because she is broken yet whole, just as we all are. She may be 14, but she reminds me of a soul much older. She’s confused and lonely, but headstrong and caring. And goodness, she loves with all she has without ever needing to say the word love. I got mad at her a few times, but these mistakes made me love her more because I understood where she was coming from. If you don’t love June, then you were never an awkward, lonely teenage (or adult…) girl.
But June isn’t the only great character. Every single character is fleshed out, relatable, broken, and lovable. There was not one I disliked, because even when I hated their choices, I understood and I think that’s the most important part of it all.
While June is the protagonist, I do not think she’s the main character. It is Finn who threads through each story, and ties them all together with a silky red ribbon. Even though he’s physically absent, he’s always there. Along with Finn comes the presence of AIDS. AIDS is Finn’s character foil, his dark shadow. With mention of Finn always comes mention of AIDS. In this way, AIDS is a character in the story, even if it’s rarely talked about, which I believe is essential in a story about the AIDS epidemic. It’s a ghost, invisible but always present and always pressing.
There’s something magical about an ending that makes you cry. You cry when the words touch something deep inside of you, maybe even something you didn’t realize was there. Any story that can make you cry leaves an imprint on your heart; a little stamp of pain or joy. Share these stories, so that we all can share these stamps on our hearts. Read Tell the Wolves I’m Home. The world needs more books like this.
5 black buttons out of 5.