Book Review #28: She Named Me Wolf by Tenkara Smart

On his journey through life, Wolf goes through too much: his father’s alcoholism, his mother’s crippling fear, his brother’s carelessness, his isolation at school. Yet, he’s never truly alone. Since he was a child, his best friend has been a spiritual entity named Polly. The Japanese ghost helps him to navigate the treacherous waters of life at home and his often visions and abilities. You see, Wolf can not only travel through time to visit his past self– a Japanese samurai named Junsako– but also talk to the animals that live around his Australian home.

Together, with his friends’ help, Wolf might survive his father’s horrific abuse, but it won’t be easy.

She Named Me Wolf (The Many Lives of Wolf, #1)

Smart’s writing is simply gorgeous. There was never a moment went I felt detached from the story. I was right beside Wolf as he went on innumerable adventures with Polly and the crew. We went on a trip to visit native americans, fought a shark in the bathtub, went to a pool party with ants, traveled to ancient Japan to watch a samurai… I could go on for ages. The nostalgia that came with reading this touching third-person narration was breathtaking. I was absolutely enraptured.

The characters themselves are so beautifully written as well. They each have their faults, and even when it’s frustrating, they even have redeeming qualities. As you can tell from the synopsis above, the obvious antagonist is Wolf’s father. The reader is meant to dislike him instantly. Hate him, almost. I found myself growing more and more frustrated with Smart for trying to give this horrible man a good side. I understood the purpose, but I didn’t want to understand or like him. (PS: It didn’t work. I hated him even more as the story went.) You feel for the individuals, though. I almost cried for Wolf, I wanted to scream at his mother, and I could have honestly throttled his father. Then, I thanked his neighbors, his sensei, Polly… I could go on for ages.

Yet, I had to bump the story down one star, and I’ll tell you why. I never recovered from an incident that occurs around 80% mark. It was almost too dark to handle, and it was extremely sudden, unexpected, and, well, a bit triggering. It knocked me sideways so hard that I found it hard to keep going. I wanted the ending to bring back the magic, but I was just too depressed from what Wolf did that I couldn’t really enjoy it as much as I liked. I guess that’s part of the point (which is why I didn’t bump this down to a three). The story is supposed to be dark, I know that. Such is the reality of the lives that some children in the world lead. No one wants to see that bleak nature. It’s real, though. God, it’s so real.

I honestly don’t have a valid solution for this issue. A trigger warning would have ruined the surprise and shock that I felt when the scene came, but at the same time, I needed it. *sigh* Anywho, it’s a 4 out of 5 stars for me (which translates to an 8 out of 10 on the Amy Scale). I really, really enjoyed it up until that point. Very well done.

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