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10 / 30 books. 33% done!

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55 / 104 books. 53% done!

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54 / 165 books. 33% done!
Monday, February 28, 2011

Snarky Narrator Makes Me Laugh in Gem of a First Novel

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Not a lot goes on in the small town of West End, Montana (Pop. 947). Tourists flock to the region to fish and gawk at wildlife in Yellowstone National Park, but for the locals, life pretty much revolves around getting drunk and getting pregnant. Sixteen-year-old K.J. Carson can't wait to leave it all behind. All she has to do is make it through high school. With dyslexia. And a bunch of redneck morons harrassing her daily. Piece of cake.

When shaggy-haired Virgil Whitman appears at K.J.'s high school one day, she's instantly smitten. A transplant from Minnesota, he's gorgeous, laidback, and a brilliant wildlife photographer. Getting paired up with him for a journalism project, puts K.J. over the moon. Wolf-watching with Virgil and his wildlife biology professor mother is exciting; K.J.'s mesmerized by the beauty of the animals (not to mention her journalism partner). Her obsession with them grows every time she pens a new article for her "Wolf Notes" column.

It's not until an angry local takes a potshot at Virgil that K.J. realizes just how dangerous it is to be a wolf sympathizer in a place like West End. She knows the whole idea of re-introducing wolves into Yellowstone sparked controversy in areas surrounding the park, but she had no idea how divisive an issue it really was. Until now. While ranchers rage against the wolves that attack their cattle, activists put up their own fight. The fiercer the battle gets, the more vicious it becomes - businesses are getting vandalized, K.J.'s being threatened, and people are angry enough to shoot teenagers. Despite everyone's warnings to back off, K.J. can't keep away from the wolves. Or Virgil. Or really dumb ideas that get her in trouble with everyone from her father to the town's two police officers. But she can't back down now, can she? Isn't standing up for her beliefs worth a little ribbing from her classmates? Besides, the wolves are the only thing she and Virgil have in common. If she curbs her little obsession, will Virgil stop paying so much attention to her? With her town in turmoil, K.J. has to decide who she really is and how far she'll go to save the animals she's grown to love.

The plot to Kristen Chandler's debut novel, Wolves, Boys, & Other Things That Might Kill Me, may seem a little far-fetched, but I remember well the fight between loggers and environmentalists that broke out in my home state of Washington over the spotted owl. The action in the book might get a little melodramatic - it's a book, after all - still, it was realistic enough to keep me thoroughly engrossed. Virgil didn't even turn into a werewolf. Imagine that! My favorite part of the novel, however, was K.J. Funny, snarky, self-deprecating K.J. She made me laugh, she also made me think and feel and root for her to triumph in her quest to save the wolves. While the novel's got a few rough spots (some awkward phrasing, a handful of copyediting errors, etc.), it's still a gem of a first novel. I enjoyed it, loved it really, and cannot wait to see what Chandler does next.

(Readalikes: Reminded me of The Loop by Nicholas Evans)

Grade: B

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for some language (no F-bombs), sexual innuendo, and mild violence

To the FTC, with love: Another library


  1. I thought about The Loop by Nicholas Evans when I first read the summary, too. It's hard being a wolf-sympathizer in certain parts of the country, but it's worth it for one of our nation's most beautiful top predators. :) Thank you for the great review, and happy reading!

  2. Thanks Susan! What a witty review!

  3. Ooh, I've been intrigued by this one and now I want to pick it up!

  4. How nice! A book about real wolves and not werewolves! That's refreshing. Sounds like a good plot!


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