Review: The Children and the Wolves by Adam Rapp

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.

Accomplice

Accomplice by Eireann Corrigan

This book will be released in August 2010.

It was a perfect plan, but then it all went wrong.  When their college prep advisor tells them that it takes more than good grades and community service to get into the best schools, Finn and Chloe decide to make themselves and their college essays very special.  They stage Chloe’s kidnapping, hiding her in the basement of Finn’s grandmother’s house because she is out of town.  It was supposed to be simple, but their carefully staged deception starts to wear on Finn as she is forced to lie to everyone, carefully staging her emotions and reactions to not only keep the lie going but to make sure that they get enough attention from the media.  When CNN shows up to cover the kidnapping, Finn and Chloe know that it cannot end the way they had planned and are forced to make dreadful choices.  Don’t pick up this page turner without clearing your day first, it is impossible to put down!

With a great premise, the book opens with Finn in the midst of the situation already.  There is little time to draw breath as readers are immediately plunged into a faked kidnapping staged by two very smart but very naive girls.  The drive to have a bit of fame combined with the pressures of college applications make for a potent combination for a book. 

The story is told from Finn’s point of view as she deals with attending school and lying to everyone in her life, including Chloe’s parents and her own. Finn is in denial about a lot of things throughout the book, facing complicated feelings about her best friend.  This tension about their relationship and what is at the heart of it makes the book even more compelling as Finn tries to navigate a situation of her own making.

This riveting novel is tightly written.  The book builds tension as Finn struggles with her emotions and with the fallout from the kidnapping.  It is not breakneck paced, rather it is woven into an intense read. 

Ideal for booktalking to teens, this book will have everyone right from the premise.  It completely lives up to its promise as a thrilling look at lies and fame.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic.

Stolen

Stolen by Lucy Christopher

In a Bangkok airport on her way to Vietnam with her parents, sixteen-year-old Gemma stops for a cup of coffee to take a break from arguing with them.  It was then that her life changed.  She was drugged and taken to the outback of Australia where Ty, the man who took her, had created a self-sufficient home for both of them.  Gemma fought back as best she could when the drugs wore off, tried to escape multiple times, but the outback itself kept her bound at home with Ty.  Ty is handsome, well-built, and deeply in love with Gemma, whom he has been watching for years.  Readers get to experience their strange, disturbing, but captivating relationship grow and change through the form of a letter from Gemma to Ty. 

Christopher’s book explores what freedom really is, what love means, and how relationships can morph and change despite ourselves.  In Gemma, Christopher has created a strong modern female that readers will instantly relate to.  She has domineering but distant parents, close friends, and much to miss.  But the most remarkable character Christopher created is Ty.  Ty the monster, the angel, the wronged, the wrong-doer.   He is so complex yet so simple to understand.  And readers will come to understand him, and perhaps like Gemma love him in the end.  The writing masterfully takes readers on the same course as Gemma, loving Ty despite themselves.

The third character in the novel is the setting itself.  The Australian Outback is vividly rendered from its incredible heat to the redness of the sand to the plants and animals that make their home there.  It forms the walls of Gemma’s prison, beautiful and horrible at the same time.  Christopher weaves imagery from the setting into much of her writing, further tying the book closely to the setting.  She does it with skill and subtlety.

Highly recommended, this book is one that twists underneath you, bringing you to a place you never expected to reach.  Beautifully written, this book is appropriate for ages 14-18.

Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic.

Also reviewed by Melody’s Reading Corner.