I am the wrong gender and few decades too late, but this year I seem to be channeling my inner teenage girl.
Some of the best novels I have read
this year have been "young-adult" fiction with a female protagonists - The Fault in Our Stars, The Age of Miracles, and now Carol Rifka Brunt's debut novel Tell The Wolves I'm Home.
I purposely put "young-adult" in quotes because as I continue to read from this genre (perhaps "literary box" is a more accurate descriptor?), I don't understand how any of these books differ from other well-told, well-written "adult" novels. If anything, being an "adult" makes these coming-of-age stories (which most of them seem to be in one way or another) even more poignant.
I did not know much about this book going in. One of the nice things about e-books is not having those tempting back cover or inside flap blurbs to spoil anything. I did know that the book was critically well-received (and highly rated here on Goodreads), had spectacular cover art, that it was about AIDS in the 1980s, and, of course, the young-adult/teenage female protagonist. So, in this review and from my perspective/personal reading experience, I hesitate to say anything more than that. I don't think it would be necessarily spoiling anything (the official blurb above gives away more than I initially knew), but what started out as a fairly generic teen tale turned into a rich and moving story of grief, loss, love and compassion. Given the praise, I suspected the novel had to "grow," but not knowing too much allowed it to do so in quite unexpected ways.
Beyond being the story of young June Elbus it is also a stunning snapshot of how far society has come re: AIDS and homosexuality over the course of just a couple of decades. It's almost (almost!) hard to imagine the days of when AIDS was a death sentence and the "closet" was a bigger, deeper, darker space.
My quibbles with the book are small. There are family secrets that are revealed too conveniently, reconciliations happening a bit too quickly, and -- as if often the case in the "young adult" genre -- the young folks a bit too wise beyond their years, so I am only knocking off a mere half-star for a 4.5 star rating. If you are a whole number rating purist (as is the case on the Goodreads site), whiel I was quite moved by the story, there was just not that "slam-dunk" feeling for me to give a 5-star rating, so it's a fairly reluctant round-down to 4 stars.