#YA #BookReview -- Counting Wolves by Michael F. Stewart -- #Giveaway Inside
The Breakfast Club meets Grimm’s Fairy Tales in the lair of an adolescent psych ward.
Milly’s evil stepmother commits her to a pediatric psych ward. That’s just what the wolf wants. With bunk mates like Red, who’s spiraling out of control; Pig, a fire-bug who claims Milly as her own—but just wants extra dessert—Vanet, a manic teen masquerading as a fairy godmother with wish-granting powers as likely to kill as to help; and the mysterious Wolfgang, rumored to roam for blood at night; it doesn’t take long for Milly to realize that only her dead mother’s book of tales can save her.
But Milly’s spells of protection weaken as her wolf stalks the hospital corridors. The ward’s a Dark Wood, and she’s not alone. As her power crumbles, she must let go of her magic and discover new weapons if she is to transform from hunted to hunter.
Anxiety and obsessions are dangerous. Sure, you knew that.
But, do your kids understand how serious it is?
This is a timely book, especially with all the ads I see about the 5-Second Rule. Don’t get me wrong, counting is indeed an excellent metacognition tool and has the power to launch you into action. But, in the case of young people, this powerfully simple tool can spiral out of control when paired with an underlying fears and anxieties.
Counting Wolves removes the rose-colored shades and allowed me to see obsessions for what they are – crippling and deadly. Centering on a young girl who has excruciatingly vivid dreams and positions one person as her enemy.
I, as with every book that places my mind in a vice grip, agonized over what to say in this review. It moved me so much. Without delving into psychoanalytic theories regarding the employment of metacognition tools and the prevalence of OCD and anxiety in millennials, I will keep it simple. (Now, if you want to chat about that, go straight to the comments and we can totally chat all day!!)
This psychologically enticing story left me speechless. Not “speechless” in that I have nothing of substance to say, but “speechless” in that I don’t know how to possible verbalize each feeling and reaction without offering a cliff notes version of the story. (That’s a no-no and I do not have time for that!)
Stewart is an amazing author. (I am not sure how I can say that with anymore emotion without sounding like a crazed adult who has fallen in love with YA fiction simply because of him!)
While I ramble and attempt to gather my thoughts in a somewhat intelligent manner, I will leave you with this. Counting Wolves, on the surface, is a young-adult psychological thriller featuring a teen who was admitted to the psychiatric ward. While there, she works fights the “wolves” that attempt to hold her captive.
Now, underneath the beautiful writing, vivid scenes, round characters, and a thicket of plots, lies a magnificent truth.
Anxiety is real.
Fears are real.
When parents read fairy tales, they do so to sooth their child or to fulfill a “read to your child nightly" mandate. Sometimes, the human imagination and mind will hold on to all those images, whether from the artist’s illustrations or from the child's imagination. But, what parents (myself included) either don't understand, or choose not to see, is that the memories and images stay and children may begin to connect them with other events or people, just as the girl did in the story.
It's been said fairy tales are dangerous and abusive. Well, either way, parents still read them and children still relish in their fantastical allure.
But, we know there is power in fiction and fantasy. This story uses that power to share very important information about one girl’s experience with obsessions and anxieties and how she fights (almost literally) through it to survive.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Michael F. Stewart is winner of both the 2015 Claymore Award and the 2014 inaugural Creation of Stories Award for best YA novel at the Toronto International Book Fair.
He likes to combine storytelling with technology and pioneered interactive storytelling with Scholastic Canada, Australia, and New Zealand’s, anti-cyberbullying program Bully For You. In addition to his award winning Assured Destruction series, he has authored four graphic novels with Oxford University Press Canada’s Boldprint series. Publications of nonfiction titles on Corruption and Children’s Rights are published by Scholastic and early readers are out with Pearson Education.
For adults, Michael has written THE SAND DRAGON a horror about a revenant prehistoric vampire set in the tar sands, HURAKAN a Mayan themed thriller which pits the Maya against the MS-13 with a New York family stuck in the middle, 24 BONES an urban fantasy which draws from Egyptian myth, and THE TERMINALS–a covert government unit which solves crimes in this realm by investigating them in the next.
Herder of four daughters, Michael lives to write in Ottawa where he was the Ottawa Public Library’s first Writer in Residence. To learn more about Michael and his next projects visit his website at www.michaelfstewart.com or connect via Twitter @MichaelFStewart.
Michael is represented by Talcott Notch.
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