I had the pleasure of reading Brandon Herbert's Walking Wolf Road this week. There are several things that struck me as I read, and the first was Herbert's ability to create a strong, compelling teen boy voice in his hero, Jimmy Walker. Through this character, Herbert explored the realm of family relationships, high school drama, and the paranormal world of Native American shapeshifters. These are heavy, complex issues that Herbert dealt with satisfactorily and sometimes with surprisely unexpected twists. **No Spoilers** here!!!!
Jimmy Walker is being raised by his mother and stepfather, who seems at times overly critical and demanding of Jimmy. This perceived rejection by his stepfather is part of the fuel that feeds the fire with Jimmy, the dark fire that consumes, which Jimmy calls his "dragon." To make matters worse, Jimmy's stepfather moves the family around quite a bit. Jimmy has just landed, in chapter 1 in a new town at the beginning of his senior year in high school. He hates the fake high school culture that drives most of the drama and
encourages a group of jocks to be bullies. Herbert's hero is the unlikely type: over-weight, depressed and totally unaware of his talents, or dormant courage. The story unfolds and we get the pleasure of watching Jimmy discover new aspects of himelf develop with a new found group of friends, The Pack.
The premise: loner boy, Jimmy Walker, meets strange new friends, Fen, Loki, and Geri, and finds a place he belongs. They are werewolves who bring Jimmy into the Pack. When a dead boy speaks to Jimmy and a dark shadow haunts his dreams, he is propelled on a mission of self discovery as well as a mission of truth. With his Pack mates at his back, he begins the journey. But life is rarely what you expect and loss changes everything.
Jimmy's best friend is the beautiful, but creepy Fen, who opens Jimmy's eyes to the world of the paranormal and WOLVES, or werewolves that is! In the "Pack" is a dark-haired beauty named Loki and the quiet Geri. They play like wolves, order their relationships like wolves and explore the world like wolves. The relationship between Jimmy, new Pack pup, and Fen, the Alpha dog, is perhaps where Herbert does some of his best teen relationship exploration and it has intense momemts...you'll have to read to find out what happens and why. The romantic triangulations will make your eyebrows raise...
I appreciated his take on the "werewolf" concept. Herbert incorporated just enough Native
American culture as to create a believable "otherworld" complete with rules of engagement and mystical characters. His descriptions were vivid and beautiful. As the hero, Jimmy, explores his connection to his personal, inner wolf, he discovers that much of what he thought was true about life, his family and his friends was actually ...different, not wrong, but different. Herbert takes on the teen world with great confidence. He creates a world where werewolves live among humans. A world where you never know if someone is a wolf in sheep's clothing or a Wolf in a man's body. I loved it. This is a great, fast-paced read you can really sink your teeth into, no pun intended:)