Wolf Mark by Joseph Bruchac

Friday morning.

Maybe from now on my life is going to be like that of any other kid my age. Maybe I really can have friends and not have to move to a new town every six months. Maybe things are finally going to be normal for me. Or at least as close to normal as any teenager’s life can be after his mother dies and he’s stuck in a run-down trailer with a father who has lost himself in the bottom of a bottle.

Someone pokes me in the side with the eraser end of a pencil.

— p. 1

  1. My favourite part of the story was the three quotes that preface it.
  2. Um. It’s not that this story is terrible. It’s just very melodramatic in the beginning chapters.
  3. Luke’s voices is very teen male. Which may be authentic! But I grew tired of hearing him ramble on about his crush, Meena, and how much he wanted to kiss her.
  4. Meena seems neat: kind, friendly, intelligent. Unfortunately, even when she’s in the foreground she’s background to the story, very definitely the love interest – a motive for Luke – instead of her own character. It’s great that we get a Muslim immigrant girl (she and her engineer/scientist dad came to the US from Karachi for his work) as a romanceable character, it’s just that there wasn’t much character involved. Not for Meena and not for Luke’s other best friend, Renzo (short for Lorenzo).
  5. Luke’s voice is uneven, sometimes formal, sometimes colloquial, with references ranging from classical western literature to he bible to pop culture. Which is pretty cool, because this is how teens (and adults) speak and think. We are not consistent beings.
  6. Overall pluses:
    1. Positive portrayal of wolves. And werewolves/wolf-men. This feels ridiculous to write, but wolves have been maligned by lazy white voices for centuries. Bruchac brings forward Indigenous American perspectives on wolves – as model families, for instance.
    2. A positive father-son relationship. Despite recent turmoil between Luke and his dad, they have a solid, trusting relationship and make a good team.
    3. Uncle Cal. He’s pretty cool.
    4. New take on legends and folklore, both Indigenous/American and Eastern European.
    5. A music-loving hacker who is, intimidating appearance be darned, friendly.
    6. A bloodsucker who is devout.
    7. A corporate big baddie. Certain elements of the story reminded me of Charles de Lint’s Wildlings series, this most of all.
    8. A fast pace and plenty of action.
    9. A protagonist who has to resist his own flaws.
  7. So if you really just want a YA novel with a male protagonist and the feel of an action movie, dive right in!
  8. But there were also a number of things that I didn’t like:
    1. Meena (and everyone else) being background to Luke and his dad’s drama. It felt a little like Meena’s religion was used as a means to keep them from being a couple, which scruple (or rather, her father’s expectations) was overcome when Luke saves the day and, incidentally, his crush and her dad.
    2. Marina. The Russian succubus upyyr. This is definitely a stereotype, even if she does read poetry.
    3. Where are the women? Meena is an inspiration, not a character; Marina is a stereotype; Luke’s mom is dead; and the two other upyr girls are given names and not much else.
    4. Well. I guess there’s the one Latina cop. Okay. She gets more on-page time than any adult excepting Luke’s dad and uncle.
    5. Luke is equipped like an action hero: perfect memory, super combat training, all that jazz. Maybe a little over the top. (Then again. Any action movie does the same thing, so.)
    6. The G-slur is used several times. It isn’t used as an insult, nor are any Rromani stereotypes brought up, but the word itself is an slur.
  9. Mixed feelings: Luke remembers that the Nazis deliberately killed “Gypsies, communists, political rivals, the old and the ill, and especially the Jews” (p. 248). I love that he remembers the Rromani among the many people(s) murdered by the Nazis; I wish that he had remembered the policy of killing disabled, mentally ill, and queer people as well.
  10. This feels like an overly negative review. I’ll be plain: I didn’t enjoy the book. At the same time, the second half was difficult to put down. (Action. Lots of action.) If you’ve got a teen boy who just wants a beach read, maybe?

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