From critically acclaimed Shaun David Hutchinson comes a gritty and raw portrayal of the oftentimes traumatic experience of growing up.
Virgil Knox was attacked by a monster.
Of course, no one in Merritt believes him. Not even after he stumbled into the busy town center, bleeding, battered, and bruised, for everyone to see. He’d been drinking, they said. He was hanging out where he wasn’t supposed to, they said. It must’ve been a bear, or a badger, or a gator—definitely no monster.
Virgil doesn’t think it was any of those things. He’s positive it was a monster. But being the new kid in a town where everybody knows everybody is hard enough as it is without being the kid who’s afraid of monsters, so he tries to keep a low profile.
Except he knows the monster is still out there. And if he isn’t careful, Virgil’s afraid it’ll come back to finish him off, or worse—that he’ll become one himself.
- heavy subject matter
- bullying/ homophobia/ rumours/ gossip/ violence/ self-harm
- well written, will resonate with people for many reasons
“Howl” marks a return to Shaun David Hutchinson’s wheelhouse. Much like his first books, this novel is hard-hitting, visceral and engaging. It’s just my opinion, but I feel as though Hutchinson was meant to write the things that others shy away from.
This book opens with Virgil Knox in pain and confused. He’s been attacked by a monster and staggers into the parking lot of an ice cream place at the town he’s just moved to. Merritt is where Virgil’s father grew up and it doesn’t seem to have changed much. It’s not the city that Virgil is used to, and his attack makes that more obvious than ever.
No one in Merritt believes that Virgil was attacked by a monster and the small-town teasing escalates quickly to bullying and harassment. Worse than the monster pictures taped to his locker, Virgil must deal with the town’s residents saying the attack was Virgil’s fault. He shouldn’t have been at a party. He shouldn’t have been drinking. He shouldn’t’ have been in the Sprawl.
What’s marvelous about this book is that it captures a few things without being overt about it. There are, after all, a lot of monsters in our worlds and we get attacked in a lot of ways. The result can often be the same. Sometimes, all we want it to be believed, accepted or supported. And, sometimes that can be the most difficult thing for people to realize that we need.
This book is frightening. From the very beginning of the novel, Virgil is on a downward spiral. He is obsessing over what happened to him, he can’t eat, he’s sleeping in his closet because he’s consumed by fear and anxiety. And the world continues to function around him as though everything that happened to him is in his mind.
This book really illustrates the battle we can have with ourselves. It’s about trying to fit in, heart break, screaming as loud as you can for help and not being heard. I feel as though this is the kind of book that will resonate for people in different ways. The journey that Virgil is on is relatable on many levels; Hutchinson had done a remarkable job of capturing the tangle of emotion that Virgil deals with.
Go into this knowing that there may be some things that are difficult to read but I would argue that it is well worth it. Fans of “We Are the Ants” and “At the Edge of the Universe” will definitely want to pick up a copy of this book!
Things You May Want To Know: Please be aware, I’m by no means an expert on what may or may not have the potential to disturb people. I simply list things that I think a reader might want to be aware of. In this book: (SPOILERS) character with PTSD, violence, attack, sexual assault (off page), small town rumours, self-harm, homophobia, bullying, gaslighting
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I received an ARC of Howl by Shaun David Hutchinson from Simon & Schuster via Edelweiss in exchange for an unbiased review.