Touch of the White Wolf leads readers into a journey of discovery that is humorous, yet tugs at the heart and mind. Perhaps my perspective is bent, yet the very concept of a human transformed into an animal makes me want to laugh. What makes me excited about this novel is that the author turns the implausible into a reality. Readers will be able to step through their imaginations into the story, which eases one past the fanciful episodes among the forest creatures into poignant reflections about what it means to dominate, and how the natural world might see humankind.
B.J. Hunter, immersed in Florida’s wildlife since her teens, cared for squirrels and other animals at a shelter in her youth. That background allows her to weave a narrative embedded with pathos. The first-time author gives the reader a sense of the unbreakable ties between the human and natural worlds as the main character, Jenna, recounts sights, sounds, sensations and emotions.
At the same time, the experiences of a teen who is not even sure about where she fits in her birth family, stretches the bounds of belief. Best news, is that Hunter who works in the concrete, legal world during the day, cleverly reaches toward the abstract in words. The author prods readers to traipse beyond the limits of their disbelief into the unfamiliar, even as the switch from homo sapiens to canis lupus happens:
A wave of dizziness hit her and she fell back into her chair. Looking for the fox, she saw it running back into the forest. She tried to get up and run after it, but she couldn’t stand and instead tumbled forward onto the ground. What was going on?
She looked down at her feet, they were covered in white fur. Her hands had become paws and her whole body had become that of a wolf. She was covered in thick white fur from head to toe. She looked back at the fox who had stopped and turned to her.
The fox didn’t seem to notice the change in Jenna’s appearance , and called to her, “Come on, we haven’t much time!”
Jenna tried to quell her rising panic as she tried to figure out the transformation.
It took a moment for it to hit her, the fox was actually talking to her in growls and barks – and she understood him!
OK, I can accept that a teen discovers her inner wolf. At the same time, as a reader, I did not feel Jenna’s “rising panic,” even in my thoughts. At first, I saw the seemingly laid back introduction of that key plot element as a weakness. I gave the author’s approach a second look, and realized the technique gives the story an Alice in Wonderland affect. Jenna’s out-of-nowhere transformation scene is a gateway to a slew of surprises. The narration positions the reader as a witness to the fantastic.
I won’t reveal much more about the plot, because the novel deserves to be read. Touch of the White Wolf is a treat for young mind’s that crave the relief of an imaginative world. Jenna is brave, loyal, kind and self-sacrificing, and manages to avoid the stereotypical teen angst. Those who love heroes will be more than satisfied. Readers who like intrigue will find the girl’s sojourn of discovery to fulfill a legend compelling. Lovers of the fantastic will enjoy when the heroine teams up with a dragon.
As I flipped the last page, I wanted to tell Hunter, “give me more.” Adventure lovers will concur. This debut to what I hope will be a series, effectively manages characters and plot to draw the readers’ attentions to the environment, other creatures, and slips in a subtle commentary on the fate of bullies.