When KJ Carson is assigned to write a column for her school newspaper about the wolves in nearby Yellowstone National Park, she’s more interested in impressing Virgil Whitman, the new kid in school and the photographer assigned as her partner, than in investigative journalism. But before long, KJ has a face-to-face encounter with a wolf that changes her and the way she thinks about wolves. With her new found passion for protecting these controversial animals, KJ inadvertently ignites the fuse of the anti-wolf sentiment in the community.The first thing that should be mentioned about this book is that it is NOT a paranormal teen book. We're not talking were-wolves here. I think with the cover (which I love!) and the flood of paranormal teen books out that that should be made clear!
First Virgil is injured during a town parade, and then her father’s store is set on fire in retribution. To stop the escalating violence, KJ follows Virgil to the cattle ranch of the most outspoken anti-wolf activists in town, against her father’s will. What she discovers there threatens everything and everyone she cares about.
In KJ’s fierce and funny attempt to make peace between the wolves and the people that despise them, she must first face her own long-held fears. It’s terrifying, but then, finding yourself always is.
KJ who has, in her father's words, "blossomed" over the summer but, unlike many other teen novels where the ugly duckling turns into a beauty, she doesn't miraculously become popular. Love it. I think it's a good lesson for teens (and the rest of us) that being skinnier, taller, shorter, prettier, etc., etc., is NOT going to solve all of our problems. KJ, as it turns out, is still as much of an outsider as she ever was.
I loved the whole pro-wolf/anit-wolf sentiments in the book. At first KJ sees the issue in black and white but when she learns more about the issues on both sides I think she comes to see that, in the end, not everything is black and white, there are a lot of shades of gray. That doesn't just apply to the wolves but to the people in her life as well. I think it's interseting to note that this issue isn't fabricated, it's based on real issues facing wolves, environmentalists, naturalists, ranchers, etc. You can read about "the story behind the story" on the author's website.
This book is ultimately about KJ's relationship with people: her father, Virgil, and the town as a whole. I also loved how there's no tidy HEA for KJ and Virgil like I've seen in many of the other teen books I've read lately (ie. Perfect Chemistry & Rules of Attraction). I think it was Nath who's mentioned several times that she doesn't buy the HEA type ending in YA books. I tend to agree but this one has a very realistic ending for KJ and Virgil. Although I expect some people will have wanted. . . more. But I think it was perfect for this book!
In a nutshell, I LOVED this book. I thought it was smart, extremely well written, and completely refreshing. This is Kristen Chandler's debut title and I will be looking forward to more from this author.