Published: June 19, 2012 by Random House
Genre: Contemporary, literary fiction
Received: From library
Summary (from Goodreads): 1987. 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. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn’s company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down. But Finn’s death brings a surprise acquaintance into June’s life—someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart.
At Finn’s funeral, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd. A few days later, she receives a package in the mail. Inside is a beautiful teapot she recognizes from Finn’s apartment, and a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet. As the two begin to spend time together, June realizes she’s not the only one who misses Finn, and if she can bring herself to trust this unexpected friend, he just might be the one she needs the most.
It’s easy for me to write about books I hate. There’s a sort of gleeful joy in pulling a story apart to show all its flaws, in finding the most dramatic language to convey just how terrible a plot point, characterization, or the implications from either is. Writing about books I enjoyed, but had issues with certain elements of, is also simple – state what about the book worked for me, what didn’t, and how it could be improved upon.
But it’s very, very difficult for me to talk about books I love without feeling self-conscious. What can I say about them that doesn’t fall into the realm of cliche, or read like a publisher-selected cover blurb? As bloggers and others who talk about books online, it’s part of the job description to be critical, so when I find virtually nothing to criticize in a book, I end up questioning myself: am I not thinking hard enough about this? Am I letting my enjoyment of this book, and how it affected me, cloud my judgement and keep me from assessing its quality? And what is there to say about a book that leaves you speechless?
I don’t know. Glowing reviews are just not something that comes naturally to me. But even if they were, I still doubt I’d be able to eloquently write about how I feel about this particular book. I’ve tried, in the hours since I finished it. I’ve tried to capture what exactly made it perfect to me in words – and it’s come out cringe-inducing every time. Maybe later, when I have a chance to buy my own copy and re-read it, I’ll be able to untangle the jumbled mess of feelings in my head and write a coherent review explaining exactly why this book is as beautiful as it is. For now, that’s just not something I can do. Plenty of others, judging by the Goodreads and Amazon reviews, already have; if you’re curious about the book and exactly what people liked about it, those would be a far better place to look. But right now, that’s just not something I can do. The most I can say, and the best praise, I think, that I can give to this book or any other, is that even if just in a small way, I feel like Tell the Wolves I’m Home changed the way I look at myself and my relationships to those around me.
(What I said about feeling self-conscious talking about books I love? Yeah, every time I look back over that last sentence, that’s exactly what I’m talking about. It just reads so… overblown, true as it is. I feel like I need to write like ten snarky reviews of subpar YA just to make up for that sentence and regain my Cool Blogger Cred.)
My own feelings aside, I do think Tell the Wolves I’m Home is an incredible novel, and I meant it one hundred percent when I called it beautiful. Move it to the top of your TBR pile. Request it at your library. Please read this book. I can’t promise it will blow away your expectations like it did mine, but I can’t imagine you’ll regret picking it up.
And a bucket of tears.