Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Rating – 2 stars.

Sometimes the popular opinion about a subject may be so appealing you do not even consider the possibilities of things ever being wrong. It is only when you undergo the experience yourself can you make an opinion, any opinion and chose sides. 

Having said that, for this book I chose the minority. As you can decipher this book has a large number of reviews on Goodreads and most of them veer towards the positive, hence I did not have second thoughts while selecting this to be my pick for fulfilling a category of a challenge that a YA group has recently declared. Being a member of the group I decided to give the challenge a shot and chose Brunt’ popular debut novel which has been on my TBR shelf for quite a  while now.

Set in the mid 80′ the book narrates the story of 14 year old June Elbus, who is coming to terms with the recent loss of her godfather and uncle Finn Weiss due to AIDS.

Considering the time, people were still quite ignorant about AIDS so there is a stigma whenever the subject arises. But so does the curiosity and the morbid fascination.

You see, June and Greta, her elder sis – they are kinda the ones who became the first in their school to have had any sorta relationship with a person who died of AIDS. Now this fact might have gone unnoticed, except for a portrait and an article based on the said portrait that catapults June and Greta’ status among their friends and those acquainted with them since not only  are they Finn’ nieces but also the subject of the painting.

The portrait made by Finn,who was a renowned artist;  isn’t just his last work, its also the first he made in the past decade. This ensures that were the Elbus family to sell it, they would make an obscene amount of money of it. However since there are no such intentions, the family thinking about its security and also to restore the semblance of some normalcy to their lives decide to move the painting from their living room and  store the painting in a bank locker.

The article mentions that Finn had titled the painting ‘Tell the Wolves I’m Home’. This peculiar fact and another revelation regarding Finn which June discovered just days ago, forms the turning pointing of June’ life when she learns of and meets Toby, Finn’ boyfriend for the past decade.

In their mourning these two connect and in remembering the man they loved, they form a friendship, a support system. 

Brunt portrays June as a loner, not out of compulsion but by choice. Greta used to be pretty close to June, however since the past couple of years they have become distant. Suddenly her sister, her best friend becomes this mean jerk who enjoys torturing June. Turns out Greta was jealous of Finn and June bonding. Of her sister forgetting, in a way replacing her. And the jealousy things is the common link between the other pair of siblings in the book too. Finn and June’ mom who was jealous of Toby and so laid out a condition in front of Finn – should he chose to be a part of his nieces lives – he has to keep Toby as far away from them as possible. 

June portrayed as a girl wise beyond her years, somehow just doesn’t click with me. Sure we all have the phase where we have crushes,  as  June does in the book. Yes, Finn was an important person in her life, they were friends and he got her and she fancied herself in love with him. She also was grossed out by her feelings for her uncle and she is hurt, angry and sad he died but I simply couldn’t  relate to her. Nor any of the other characters in the book and it was a chore to complete this book in a way. One which I did,  what made June’ mom stop her brother from letting his nieces know such a huge part about himself. And frankly it was disappointing. 

People have high ratings and recommendations where this book is concerned but I cannot bring myself to recommend this book to anyone. Brunt has an impressive style of writing and I would surely check in on her future works but its gonna take something real impressive to make me a fan.

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