This is Not a Werewolf Story by Sandra Evans
Summary from Goodreads:
This is the story of Raul, a boy of few words, fewer friends, and almost no family. He is a loner—but he isn’t lonely. All week long he looks after the younger boys at One Of Our Kind Boarding School while dodging the barbs of terrible Tuffman, the mean gym teacher.
Like every other kid in the world, he longs for Fridays, but not for the usual reasons. The woods have secrets…and so does Raul. As soon as the other students go home for the weekend, Raul makes his way to a lighthouse deep in the heart of the woods. There he waits for sunset—and the mysterious, marvelous shapeshifting phenomenon that allows him to go home, too.
First I want to talk about the gorgeous cover of this book. I saw it a few weeks ago on Not Enough Tomes post for a Top 5 Wednesday. I just fell in love with it. The one above is of course just the front cover, here is the rest of what I saw:
The illustrator is Maike Plenzke and she is an amazing illustrator. Just take a look at her Tumblr account and you will see what I mean. You can’t quite make out all of the detail here, so if you do run across it in a store, check it out, it is one of the most beautiful covers I’ve run across recently.
I pretty much put this on hold at the library without knowing anything else about it. When I picked it up I checked the author’s bio and discovered that she is a local author. I love it when I discover a local author! She lives on Whidbey Island, just north of where I live. And as I was reading along, I realized that the school is on Whidbey Island as well. Local author and a local setting, Yeah!
So, did the story live up to it’s beautiful cover? In the end yes it did, although the journey getting there was a bit rough. The story is a bit quirky and at times hard to follow. It also started out a bit slow, and I thought about not finishing it at one point, but by the end I was very glad I didn’t quit on it. It ends up being a very sweet story about family and friendship and being comfortable with who you are.
Raul was an interesting character. He takes his time telling his story, and at times he does not explain things very well. He doesn’t appear to be a very reliable narrator, but then you have to remember his age and if you have ever tried to have a conversation with a young child, you don’t always get the whole story. In that way Raul’s voice is very authentic. He is likable and he cares a lot about the younger children at the school. His thoughts about his crush, Mary Anne, are very sweet and innocent. His desire to have friends is strong, he just doesn’t have the skills to make them with the boys his own age.
Vincent is a new kid who has arrived at the school. He appears to be cool and popular, and he wants to be Raul’s friend. But Vincent isn’t all that he appears to be and he makes some bad choices that lead to bad feelings between him and Raul. There were times I didn’t like Vincent very much, but in the end I just felt sorry for him.
The boarding school is an interesting setting, populated with some interesting adults with lots of secrets of their own. It is never really stated why the children are all at this school, it is implied that they have trouble at home and their parents send them there so they don’t have to deal with them. It is also somewhat implied that Raul may not be the only shape-shifter among them, though none of the children ever change.
The author based this story on a lot of sources, a story about a sympathetic werewolf from 12th century France, Celtic myths and Native stories from the Pacific Northwest. I was able to pick up on the Pacific Northwest stuff, but not the other two. This mix of stories does not come through until about half way through the story and once it did the story really picked up and became much more interesting. It isn’t really a werewolf story, but it is definitely about learning to love who you are and accepting yourself and accepting that even the ones you love can make mistakes.
Overall this is a book that I am glad I picked up, even if it was cover love at first sight. There is no indication that this will be a series, but I hope it is. I would love to learn more about the children at this very interesting school.