CM . . .
. Volume XVIII Number 33. . . .April 27, 2012
Under My Skin. (Wildlings, Book 1).
Charles de Lint.
Toronto, ON: Razorbill/Penguin Canada, 2012.
408 pp., hardcover, $21.00.
Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.
Review by Ronald Hore.
I am so pissed off. This is my house. He has no right, no right to hit me.
He aims a kick at me and I come up off the floor. I know heís going to beat the crap out of me, but I donít care.
And thatís when it gets weird.
Itís me wanting to take a swing at him, but by the time Iím off the floor, Iím something else. Some kind of huge animal. My handís a paw that slashes the side of his head and sends him reeling back into the hall. Blood sprays from the wound. Onto the walls. Seeps through his fingers as he puts his hand to his head and tries to keep his balance. His eyes are huge. His mouth is open, but heís not threatening me anymore. I think heís screaming.
Under My Skin is the first volume in a series to be written about a 17-year-old high school student and his friends living in Santa Feliz, California, where they are experiencing an unusual phenomenon. Teenagers in that town are turning into what the media is calling "Wildings". They are shape-shifting into various animals, birds, reptiles. No one knows what is causing it. Some, like Josh Saunders, when they discover what has happened to them, hide the fact. His animal shape is that of a mountain lion. The FBI are investigating and asking that affected youth come in for orientation. There are men in black SUVs following suspected Wildings.
The story is told from two points of view, Josh, the boy readers meet in the opening chapter, and Marina, one of his close friends in whom he confides what has happened to him. The other high school friend let in on Joshís secret is Desmond. Josh meets Elzie, another Wilding, who brings the attention of the authorities down on him, and Cory, a shape-shifter who attempts to give him some guidance. Josh is unsure about whom he can trust. His mother is a single parent with a habit of making poor choices in boyfriends. The action picks up when Johnís secret is accidentally revealed.
What follows is an adventure tale, with emphasis on the feelings and turmoil one might expect from young people of this age. There is also some sex, although it is not explicit, and mysticism, as they discover the Old Ones, shape-shifters who date back centuries. The villains in this piece are interested in discovering what benefits they can obtain from greater knowledge of the phenomena and those it has infected.
A well-written book by an experienced author of fantasy, at 408 pages, Under My Skin is broken down into a large number of fairly short chapters. Un-numbered, the chapters are only identified by either "Josh" or "Marina", an approach which aids readers in keeping track of the two narrators. The chapters range in length from two pages, ďMarinaĒ, to twenty or more, ďJoshĒ, who is the main character in the story. Marina serves to give readers another point-of-view, and her chapters also reveal her feelings toward Josh.
While the main characters are all teenagers, this should not prevent older teens or adults who read fantasy from enjoying the story. The ending wraps up this part of the adventure while leaving the door open for whatever may follow in subsequent volumes.
Ronald Hore, involved with writerís groups for several years, dabbles in writing fantasy in Winnipeg, MB.
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