Summary: This is not a werewolf story. It’s my story.
I guess you can say that I’m not a big talker. The things that matter most don’t need words. But I remember how alone I felt when I first came to One of Our Kind boarding school. That’s why I speak up for the new kid, even though it shocks everyone. Dean says the new kid has secrets. They can’t be anything like mine–can they?
I’ve seen some things in the woods near here that nobody would believe. In fact, I am something that nobody would believe. But I like you, so I’ll tell you. Hidden deep among the trees, there’s a lighthouse. As soon as the other kids go home for the weekend, I rush there and wait for sunset–and the amazing thing that happens then. Because when the sun goes down, I’m no longer the only one of my kind.
My Review: So, this was an interesting little fantasy read. I don’t typically read middle-grade books often (read: never), but I took a chance on this one because I pre-ordered it some months back as a cover buy and when it arrived on my doorstep, I got a little excited.
Anyway, on to the story.
Raul is a quiet boy, with a hard life. Between his mother’s disappearance and his father’s distance, he tends to keep his words to himself mostly because I think he feels that he has to, but also because when he does speak, people listen. Or some of them, anyway. I like that most of the dialogue was more between the characters around Raul, and Raul was just there being quietly observant. When you don’t talk, you hear things, you see things. A lot of the time, you’ll hear or see something that someone didn’t intend for you to notice. But you do. Being quiet is an easy way to discover secrets.
Raul’s secret came about when a White Deer came to him while he was in the forest, and if it talks to you, then I guess it means that you were destined to have a “second skin.” Usually someone’s second skin is that of an animal, like Raul’s wolf, but for others, their second skin is actually their human form and their first skin is an animal. We find out that there’s a recipe, of sorts, that you have to follow in order to change from your first skin to your second, and if one of those is missing, then you’re stuck in your second skin until that missing “ingredient” is found and put properly back where it should be.
I loved the twist and turns, the little reveals of the woods magic and all that it can do. I love that, through Raul’s interactions with his peers and the teachers, we find out who we can and cannot trust, but there’s also confusion, too. Not only was I on the edge of my seat as the story progressed, but I felt just as confused about the main villain as Raul did, and I couldn’t tell if he was really a nice guy, or just trying to play one to gain Raul’s trust and subsequent information from him.
There’s a bit of a schoolboy crush in the story, too, but it’s not a prominent part, I don’t think; Mary Anne’s a decent character, but she got on my nerves a lot with her seemingly know-it-all attitude, like she’s somehow superior to everyone just because she’s writing a novel. So, I have no idea what Raul sees in her, but to each his own. First love, and all that. There’s character development as you go on, though I wasn’t satisfied with one of them (I still feel like he got off too easily), but I guess it’s a bit of a consolation that he’s not exactly forgiven, yet.
In the end, Raul realizes that words actually do matter, and his father wasn’t as distant as he was led to believe. I love that the setting of the book takes place in my home state of Washington, as I don’t see that often enough unless it’s Debbie McComber or Stephenie Meyer. I also don’t read a lot of stories that involve Native American lore of the Pacific Northwest, nor do authors mention any place that’s not Seattle. The islands don’t get nearly enough consideration, if you ask me, but then again, I may just be a tiny bit biased.
And the title is right: this is not a werewolf story, and Raul tells you why.
It’s a solid 4-star story, and a quick read. When things get going, it’s tough to put it down, even when you’re at work, and I love books like that. I hope there’s a sequel in the works, because where it ends, there’s definitely enough material for a continuation and I’d love to know more about Raul’s mother and the White Wolf.