“Summer of the Wolves” I think makes a decent middle grade story about two very different girls – Stephanie and Diana, who spend a summer with their family at a horse ranch. The story shows a fragmented family trying to adjust to their new lives and find time to bond, even in consideration the growing pains of having to get along with each other and taking into consideration that one of the girls (Diana) has a mood disorder. The two girls eventually find a bond and actually end up freeing two wolves in captivity during their time at the ranch, only for it to result in circumstances that they do not realize carry heavy repercussions with what results after the girls free them.
This is very much a coming of age story within the realm of Christian fiction, and while it has its heart in the right place, I thought the book lacked a necessary amount of intimacy to really bring some of its issues and characterizations home. The mood disorder that Diana has is never expanded upon – it’s treated with sensitivity but lacks intimacy. It’s an element and it is shown to have complication (as well as shown that Diana has to cope in spurts with it), but I felt it was dealt with at arms length. Much of the other parts of this story were lacking intimacy as well, and the flow of the story feels fragmented, even though the girls have very distinct personalities from each other. Diana is a bit rebellious and Stephanie’s stuck in trying to please as many people as she can despite what she wants at her core. Both girls have to come to terms with themselves in this story. What I really liked in this story was the attention to the animals and the environment – I thought that was a nice element of the book. There are some peppered references to Native American/Cherokee culture here, but I wish it were a little more expanded than what it was in its presentation, because that would’ve been interesting to get into with the lore and what the girls ultimately learn from it.
Overall, I think it’s a decent story, but I think it could’ve had better pacing and a little more intimacy in the writing to drive the story home for what it was trying to show.
Overall score: 2/5
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Zondervan.