Evans combines spirit animals, shape-shifting magic, and the scientific method in this sequel-primed, middle-grade debut.
After the disappearance of his mother and the growing absence of his father, Raul has gotten used to being a loner. With few friends and even fewer words, Raul spends his time at boarding school looking after the younger students, trying to catch the attention of his crush, and avoiding the vicious phys ed teacher, Mr. Tuffman. But Raul also has a secret—when the rest of the kids at school go home on Fridays, Raul slips away to the White Deer Woods, where he transforms into a wolf (“not a werewolf, don’t say a werewolf”), and, just for the weekend, he isn’t alone. But when a far more dangerous predator begins stalking the woods and friends quickly become enemies, Raul must scramble to save what is closest to his heart and discovers he is not the only one hiding secrets. Evans’ whirlwind retelling of the medieval Breton tale “Bisclavret” unspools in Raul’s scattered and emotionally embroiling narration. Though it’s conveniently resolved, it also leaves more questions than answers in a plot clearly eager for a sequel. Though an author’s note cites its original European inspiration, there is no specific sourcing of the indigenous folklore (mostly Pacific Northwest Indian) she plaits with it, nor is Raul’s heritage explored.
A fast-paced if culturally questionable novel for readers who enjoy magic, science, or a little bit of both. (Fantasy. 9-13)