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RAGE IS A WOLF by KT Mather Kirkus Star


by KT Mather

Pub Date: April 22nd, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-73-295967-5
Publisher: Whisk(e)y Tit

A teenager takes a year off to write the Great American Novel of climate change in this YA fiction debut.

High school junior Elaine Archer is having a climate change–driven existential crisis. After seeing a video of a sea turtle with a straw stuck up its nose, she can no longer sit quietly in class and concentrate on physics or algebra. Not when the environment is collapsing around her, no way. As she tells her two moms, “The world is literally falling apart!...And school isn’t teaching me a single thing that’s going to help….Every single kid is in school, only we’re not teaching them how to do anything that might help….That should be ALL we’re doing.” They agree to let Elaine take a year off—if worst comes to worst, she can go back and repeat a grade—but only if she can come up with a productive use of her time. Elaine decides she wants to write a novel, though she doesn’t know exactly what it will be about. Her new freedom gives her the opportunity to meet people she would not have otherwise, including artsy Chicago hipsters, a fellow aspiring teenage writer, and a celebrity author who turns out to be a real monster. Elaine is exposed to books and concepts that change the way she thinks not only about the climate, but also about human history, sexual politics, and the ways people interact with Earth. Ideas begin to percolate, and Elaine soon starts drafting a dystopian novel of her own. Yet her art cannot be fully separated from her life, and the relationships she’s forged around her begin to shape those that she creates for her characters. Elaine may not have the scientific know-how to fix climate change, but can she come up with a more useful story to explain the state of things than the one she’s been learning in school—even if that tale is just for her?

Mather’s prose, as narrated by the profane, flippant, and often hilarious Elaine, is vibrant and surprising. Here, the protagonist makes one of her many allusions to her favorite movie, Aliens, which is, for her, a Bible-like font of parables: “Ripley never begged Hicks to love her. Even when she says to him, If an alien gets me, you gotta promise to kill me so I don’t end up impregnated and with an alien bursting out of my chest….He just says, ‘If it comes to that, I’ll do us both….’ But she neverbegs.” The story is a thrilling read right from the beginning. As soon as Elaine is allowed to quit school, the normal rules seem no longer to apply. The tale eschews standard YA tropes and plot structure, taking Elaine and readers in unexpected directions. By the time readers are consuming Elaine’s novel alongside Mather’s, it will be clear that they are experiencing a work of unusual depth and ambition. It is a climate change novel, yes, but it’s a book about so much more: angst, idealism, self-discovery, and reclaiming the world by reclaiming the narrative.

A bold and inventive environmental tale with a striking protagonist.