I like romance and boys loving boys in my books.
You can also find me on my main blog.
When Tj announced this book, he warned us of Wookiee Cry Face. He warned us that Wolfsong might make us cry and gnash our teeth and tear out our hair.
He wasn't kidding.
This is also, IMHO, one of the best books Tj has ever written. It's by no means as angsty as Into This River, but it's also not as quietly amusing as HTBANP, or as over the top hilarious as Queen or TMIR. To me, it was the culmination of a talented writer having honed his craft to perfection.
I took me some time to think about what I wanted and needed to say about this book, in such a way that I don't spoil it for you other readers who are waiting for June 20th with bated breath, and possibly gobbling up the various status updates us lucky bloggers have already had the pleasure to post.
As far as I'm concerned, I'm sending Tj a bill for the massive amount of Kleenex I used while reading, and the bottle or two of wine I needed to console myself.
I'm still hung over from this book - I kid you not. I might just have to read it again.
At its core, it's asking the question of what might become of a boy who's been told his whole life, all of his 12 years, that people will give him shit all the time, that he's not the brightest light on the Christmas tree, and that's he probably not going to get far. It looks at the repercussions of a father telling his son that he's not worth much as he's leaving him behind, and the challenges of overcoming the resulting feeling of low self-worth.
The fact that it includes wolf shifters is, while important to the plot, really more of an enhancement to the characters. It shapes much of their actions, their thoughts, and how they grow within the book, but it never distracts from the point the author is making or overshadows the real magic within.
And that magic is Ox.
The book spans about 15 years in the life of Ox. Ox is a perhaps little slower than some, Ox doesn't talk much, because he usually doesn't know what to say, and Ox believes his father, who left him and his mother to fend for themselves, in their house on that lane in that town where nothing much ever happens. Ox goes to school, Ox finds himself a part-time job, Ox sets goals for himself, even if he's not sure that he can reach them. But Ox keeps going.
When he's 16 years old, a family moves into the empty house at the end of the lane, and Tornado Joe enters Ox's black and white life in a burst of colors and never-ending talking.
To Joe, Ox is Candy Canes and Pine Cones and Epic and Awesome, and he makes no secret about how he feels. He just grabs Ox's hand and pulls him up to the house and introduces him to his parents as if that's a daily occurrence, and nothing big. Ox isn't quite sure what to do with the little boy who looks at him as if he's hung the moon, but Ox just rolls with the punches.
And thus, once Joe enters his life, a few huge secrets are dumped on Ox's shoulders, and the boy who was left behind, who's now a man and left behind again, is tested once more.
Through confusion, strange feelings, misunderstandings, anger and regrets, sins of the fathers, grief, and long separations, Ox keeps his head down, keeps his eyes on the prize, and moves forward, staying the course, solid, reliable, selfless, and loyal.
And in the end it's because of Ox, that the family is rebuilt, that it grows, and that it's stronger than it ever was. His massive shoulders carried the weight and lent strength to all of them.
The second major point of this book is the epic love story inside, a love that spans more than a decade, that grows from childhood friends into so much more. But love ain't always easy, and Joe and Ox have to work for their happy ending; they must work harder than they ever thought possible.
I loved Joe and Ox. I cried for them and with them, and rejoiced for them at their happy ending.
I loved how Tj created multi-faceted characters, not only for the main ones, but also for the supporting cast, the humans and not-quite-humans alike. I watched the love of a mother prop up Ox, I watched the kindness of a father figure turn Ox into the man he was supposed to be, no matter if tears leak on occasion, even if he's been told by his own father that men don't cry. That guy was obviously wrong.
And yet, even with the angst inside, even with the massive amounts of grief and pain (and all my tears), even with the hurdles Ox and Joe have to overcome, there's so much happiness and laughter too.
And always, always love.
Tj's particular brand of magic was perfect for this story. He carefully chose and placed each word within the story to give it the most impact possible, and he left me utterly breathless and in awe through my tears, through my laughter (the first date, OMG), and throughout the entire book.
T'was wondrous, it surely was. I hope there'll be another soon. Their story isn't done.
** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **