children and the wolves

The Children and the Wolves by Adam Rapp

I made it through about the first 30 pages of this book and set it down, packed it in my bag to return it to the library, and started a new book.  But.  I could not get the story out of my head.  I couldn’t leave Wiggins and Frog there, so I finished it and loved it, after all. 

Frog is three years old and being held captive in a basement by three middle schoolers.  Bounce is the mastermind of it all, a wealthy and very intelligent sociopath who decides to kidnap a little girl in order to murder an old poet who upset her.  Orange is the boy whose basement they keep Frog in, his father is confined to a wheelchair and high on painkillers.  Wiggins takes care of Frog, washing her clothes and making sure she takes vitamins.  The three of them take drugs, get into lots of other trouble as well, and take revenge where it suits Bounce.  The book cycles through all of their points of view, including Frog’s.  It is a book filled with so much hate and aching that it hurts to read.  It pushes the limits of teen books, exploring all of the dark places possible while at its heart having something shining with truth.

Rapp doesn’t shy away from anything here.  The book is filled with swear words and not only the four letter ones.  Drugs are seen as ways of release, not things that get you into trouble.  Sexuality is explored in a matter-of-fact way.  Violence is in almost every scene, and even when it’s not there you as a reader are waiting for it with shallow breaths. 

And yet, there is something here beyond the shock value and the clawing desperation.  There is somehow hope.  I’m not sure where it comes from, it’s like a green sprout in the torn-up sidewalk.  Rapp through the vileness of this book also gives us moments that shine.  In any other book they may have been tragic scenes, but here they are light and warmth.  It is all in comparison with the rest, just like the lives of these children.  Victims all.

Stunning, violent, vile and filled with heart wrenching beauty of its own unique sort, this book is one that you can’t turn away from, though you may want to.  Amazing.  Appropriate for ages 16-18.

Reviewed from library copy.