Tell the Wolves I’m Home: The Rare Book That’s Enjoyable for Adults and Teens

March 1, 2013

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In Tell the Wolves I’m Home, our fourteen-year-old narrator, June Elbus, loses her beloved uncle, Finn (a respected artist) to AIDS in the opening chapters. A lover of medieval paraphernalia and a loner, June feels more isolated than ever when her uncle succumbs to the disease during the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 80s, a time when ignorance and paranoia defined the general public and stigmatized those living with it.

The story unfolds over a few months as June encounters (without giving too much away), the man with whom her uncle spent his final days. Together, the two make sense of their grief and form a complicated yet undeniable bond.

Carol Rifka Blunt accomplishes the feat of writing a highly readable, simple-yet-beautifully-written novel, that can be enjoyed by teens and parents alike: most of us can connect with the storyline of June’s bond with her uncle (that adult in our lives who just gets us), and her devastation over her deteriorating relationship with her sister, Greta, who behaves monstrously towards June due to seemingly inexplicable reasons.

Blunt offers a certain respect for teenagers that comes naturally to her, without writing down to them (a common problem, unfortunately found in too many young adult (YA) novels): we hopefully all know one person without whom the world would feel a little less electrifying. She understands that teens, like adults, want a good, honest portrayal of what it is to feel lonely, to feel loved, and to feel confused; too often, the mistaken notion that adults have all these messy feelings figured out is projected onto younger people which is why a novel like this is useful and enjoyable for a wide range of ages.

Despite some plot contrivances, this debut novel offers readers solid and – at times – poetic prose, with which to think about and discuss: the complexity of all sibling relationships, the human side to the AIDS epidemic in the US, the difficulties of living with parents who work a lot, and the hitches of maintaining our individuality in a place like high school which tends to discourage one’s flavor for uniqueness.

Check out the Teen Book Talks section for more detailed conversation starters.

 Great for:

  • Teenagers and parents of teenagers 
  • Suburban-set dramas
  • Readers interested in an accessible and honest portrayal of losing someone to AIDS in the 80s. 

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