Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carla Rifka Brunt
Published by Pan in 2013
My copy: Secondhand copy
There’s only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle, the renowned painter, Finn Weiss. So when he dies far too young of a mysterious illness that June’s mother can barely bring herself to discuss, June’s world is turned upside down.
At the funeral, she notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd, and a few days later, June receives a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet.
As the two begin to spend time together, June realises she’s not the only one who misses Finn, and if she can bring herself to trust this unexpected friend, he might just be the one she needs the most.
This book was on my Amazon wishlist – I have no idea how it got there but I’m glad it did! I popped it into my virtual basket recently to make up the numbers on an order, and it turned out to be a great move.
It is the 1980s, and June is left devastated when her beloved uncle Finn dies of AIDS. A mysterious man who is spotted loitering at Finn’s funeral turns out to be Toby, his boyfriend of many years – but June didn’t even know he existed. Why the secretiveness? June finds herself unable to resist when Toby extends the hand of friendship – but will she like what the relationship tells her about Finn, and the rest of her family?
Although it isn’t marketed as such, this is definitely a suitable read for young adults. I found myself instantly drawn to our 14-year-old narrator June, who is grief-stricken but has no-one to turn to. Her mum can’t bring herself to speak about Finn – and she hates Toby – and her older sister is too busy being cool and mysterious to really take an interest. June is quite an unusual character and is a real loner – her idea of a good time is to tromp about in the woods on her own and imagine she is living in mediaeval times. She isn’t your average teen, and I really liked this about the character. She was unusual yet totally believable. Her growing friendship with Toby is also well portrayed – she is unsure about him just as we, the reader, are, and I enjoyed finding out more about him over the course of the book.
Also, as with a lot of YA novels, there is a love interest in the shape of Ben. I also liked Ben as he is a total geek, but unselfconscious about it, and he seemed a good match for June.
This book is very much about the characters, but there is a lot to love in the setting too – I liked the contrast between the Westchester woods near June’s home and Finn’s funky New York apartment. June’s trips to the city definitely added another dimension to the novel. There’s also the portrait of June and her sister than Finn was working on when he died, and this gives us not only the title of the book, but becomes an interesting recurring theme throughout the book too.
As with another book I recently read on a whim and loved (see my review of A Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing here), I was gutted to find out that this is the author’s only novel. I would love to read more from her as I thought this was a brilliant book. The characters were believable and well portrayed, and I loved June and her growing friendship with Toby.
I’m not giving this book the full ten out of ten as there were a few bits I didn’t find completely convincing, but overall I really loved this novel.
My rating: 9 out of 10