Title: Wolves, Boys, and Other Things That Might Kill Me
Author: Kristen Chandler
I saved Wolves, Boys, and Other Things That Might Kill Me for my final read of the Whitney Awards (I was only reading three of the categories, plus all of the new authors because of school. Next year I'll be back to reading all 35.) because I just had a feeling that it might be a good one. After all, it had the trifecta of greatness: awesome cover design, a national publisher, and an author with an MFA. Maybe it was the title, but I was expecting something more fantastical, more Twilight-esque. But Wolves, Boys... (sorry the title is too long to keep typing the whole thing) is sort of the opposite of Twilight, once you get past the clumsy, shy dark-haired female protagonist and the male hottie she falls in love with. For one thing, the wolves are just wolves, not shape-shifting humans. These wolves are beautiful and deadly and have divided the small Montana town where KJ and Virgil (props to Chandler for trying to resurrect the popularity of the name Virgil) live-- the wolf watchers want them protected (they're an endangered species) and the ranchers want them gone. If anything, Wolves, Boys... shows the complexities of environmental issues, or really any issue-- there are humans behind every side of the story (although the main bad guy falls solidly in one camp, which may be an indication of Chandler's personal feelings on the wolf issue). The book is more than just a romance or a book about wolves; it also explores complicated family relationships and has elements of a mystery. The climax is pretty darn exciting too.
One of the things we talk about frequently in grad school is writing windowpane prose (clear storytelling) and stained glass prose (pretty writing). Brandon Sanderson came to one of my classes yesterday and talked about his writing aims for windowpane prose, but there are a few times when stained glass prose can function appropriately in his work. Most of Chandler's book was windowpane prose, but there were definitely sections where it slipped into stained glass. I'm not sure a YA audience would appreciate a whole book of stained glass, but there were times when I felt she was trying too hard to write pretty.
Overall though, Wolves, Boys... was a great read. It was easily my favorite of the 18 books I read and I hope it sweeps all of the categories in which it's eligible. And since Chandler is a fellow marathoner and mom of four living in SLC, I may just start stalking her (just kidding, but if I do meet her at the Smith's, I'll be sure to ask for an autograph).