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Review: Wolf by Alma Alexander

Review: Wolf by Alma Alexander published on

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My name is Mal Marsh.

I was the oldest unTurned Were of my generation, waiting Turn after Turn for my own time… which never came.

Until the day, driven by desperation and by the guilt I still carried concerning my sister Celia’s tragic death, I decided it was time to stop waiting… and made a dangerous choice in the name of pride and fury. Instead of remaining the Random Were that I was born… I enlisted the help of a friend, a creature beyond the strictly drawn boundaries of Were-kind, and chose to become a Lycan, a true wolf.

I thought it would give me a chance to take my revenge on those I believed to be responsible for what had happened to my sister.

Right until the moment I realized that things were much more complicated that I had ever believed possible… and that my choice might have far more repercussions than I had thought.

One thing was clear.

Everything I thought I knew about my family was wrong.

wolf

This book ignores the path most taken.

Alma Alexander switches her narrator of this next book in her Were Chronicles trilogy, and Mal’s voice is like a rumble of thunder compared to his sister’s. He is a completely different person in every way, and this is a completely different book. Many YA series are constrained to one narrator, and the series overreaches itself. Instead of following this trend, Alexander ignores it and switches things up. The main character, Jazz, in Random is now a tertiary character in Wolf, and it’s fitting.

She also makes the unusual choice to rewrite scenes from Random from Mal’s perspective. I’ve seen this done before, and often it is boring, repetitious, and makes readers think – oh, the author is just trying to increase her word count. This is absolutely not the case in Wolf. Yes, some of the scenes are familiar, but told from Mal’s perspective there is an underlying context to them that we were not privy to in the first book. It also creates incredible tension after the first couple dual scenes – it jogged my memory of the first book, and made me worry over what some of Jazz’s choices had led Mal to do.

The main character is refreshingly full of vigor.

Mal is a take-charge kind of person. He is slightly cautious – he’s a wolf, scouting new territory, and attempting to learn his new surroundings. But he is not fearful. Jazz was very afraid – understandable, since her life was in such turmoil, her body and her life were changing with a rapidity that would leave anyone’s head spinning. But Mal is older, more assured, and more… animalistic in his approach to life philosophy. While it is true that his reasoning for getting the Shifter to turn him into a wolf was to infiltrate the pack and find answers, he displayed wolfy characteristics from the very first pages of the first book. It was not so much that he was stealing someone else’s destiny, or that he was creating a false destiny of his own. He was a wolf, through and through.

There is a little bit of romance in this one, and it moves forward in such a way that will surprise any longtime-reader of YA.

At every turn, this novel does the unexpected.

The scientific explanations have increased in detail.

It was appropriate in the first book for the science of shifting to be limited to what Jazz, a teenager, could understand. In Were, Mal is given a job in a science laboratory, and his love interest is a scientist in her own right. That means we are given the opportunity to learn more about the world Alexander has created – she’s gone into such detail it’s breath-taking.

Wolf is one of the best second novels in a series I have read in a very long time.

Read our wampus review of Random here. Our review of the last book in the series, Shifter, is forthcoming!

Review: Random by Alma Alexander

Review: Random by Alma Alexander published on 5 Comments on Review: Random by Alma Alexander

The Young Adult genre is filled with trilogies and tetralogies. All manner of beasts and creatures require three or four books to properly tell their story. And they aren’t wimpy, 250 page books either; they’re doorstoppers. They are 150,000 angsty words of teenage drama combined with fantasy and trauma. A lot of them have a sense of sameness: a love triangle, a lonely outcast heroine, usually some mean girls, a dangerous hero, and a secret world filled with .

The description of Random reveals that it is a cut above these dime a dozen fantasy romance trilogies.

My name is Jazz Marsh. I am a Random Were, which means I am a Were of no fixed form – like all Random Were, my family can become any warm-blooded creature which is the last thing they see before they Turn. For me, when my time came, that meant… trouble.

I was quite young when I lost my older sister, Celia, and my family never spoke about her. It was only when I found the secret diaries that she had left behind that I began to discover the truth behind her life and her death.

I never understood what drove my moody and dangerous older brother until I began to get an inkling about his part in Celia’s death… and until, driven to the edge of patience and understanding, he finally had to face his own Turn problems… and disastrously took matters into his own hands. One thing is clear.

Everything I thought I knew about Were-kind was wrong.

 

This is a love story. Oh, there is no romantic lead, or even the hint of a subplot. It is a love story between Jazz and her family members. Jazz was the baby of the family; she did not have to live through leaving the Old Country, did not have to cast off her old name and choose one more fitting for the real world, and was born in such a different time and place that it was almost like she was not a real part of the family. This is a subtle and recurring theme. When we first start getting into the heart of the story, when Jazz begins publishing her dead sister’s diaries on her blog, we begin to realize that Jazz is lonely, and set apart, and her family is deliberately doing that to her.

Jazz’s sister Celia kept a journal up until the last day of her life, and it is through these pages that Jazz begins to know her. Sure, she lived with her for seven years, and even slept in the same room for two, but even so simple a fact as her sister’s real name (Svetlana) was new to her. As she reads onward, her relationships with the other members of her family are slowly deepened (and then blown wide open, but I’m not going to go into detail). It is such subtle writing.

Alexander has a lot to talk about in Random: bullying, prejudice, cruelty, being different, family secrets. But she manages it with grace and skill, as she has in so many of her other books. It was the family relationships that really intrigued me, but Random has something for everyone.Continue reading Review: Random by Alma Alexander

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