June, a shy, awkward 14-year-old living just outside New York City in 1987, doesn't know what to do with herself after her beloved uncle Finn dies from AIDS. She's growing further and further apart from her sister, and her parents, both accountants, are completely distracted by tax season. So when her uncle's prized teapot, along with a note from a mysterious stranger asking to meet her, shows up at her door, June can't help herself - she just has to go meet him.
Despite working in the YA field, every time I hear the phrase "coming-of-age," I cringe a bit. That moniker is often tacked onto a book (or movie, tv show, etc) that is more sappy than sweet and often terribly cliched and trite. So when Tell the Wolves I'm Home showed up on my radar (as an Alex Award winner for 2013), I wasn't too excited to read it. It had "coming-of-age" written all over it. More often than not, works of literary fiction about teens fall flat, because the situations or the language just feel false for the young characters (*cough* Age of Miracles *cough*). But since the Alex Award winners are often some of the only adult books I read, I thought I should give it a shot.
I was barely into the book before I was completely in love with it. June, despite being so shy and awkward, is also strong and smart. She takes her time making decisions, and she knows how to play people off each other to get what she wants (although she doesn't always understand the consequences). Her relationship with her uncle and the pain she feels after his death are palpable, and at times, I wanted to shake her parents into not being there for her to help with her grieving. I found myself rushing through the book because I didn't want to leave June alone - how crazy is that?
So go spend some time with June. She could use a friend.