As some of you know, I used to have a blog that I deleted without thinking it through because… Well, because my ADHD brain takes this kind of frustrating decisions sometimes?
Note to self: don’t you ever do that again
As a result, all my absolute favorites don’t appear on this new blog, and that just won’t do. That’s why I’ve decided to create this new feature in which I’ll get to introduce the books that forged me as a reader, one Saturday at a time. Who knows, perhaps you’ll love them too?
For a book to be featured:
- Its rating must be either a 5 or (more rarely) a 4.5 ;
- I must have read it at least one year ago ;
- Its review mustn’t have been posted already on this blog.
Now, let’s talk about a fantastic novel that broke my heart before mending it in February, 2018!
Upon closing The Wicker King, I opened my eyes and I just… blinked, in that forlorn way we do when we’re so affected that the real world around us has stopped making sense. It’s the kind of novel that fails to be contained in any kind of genre, but honestly, it delivers just the kind of weird, dark atmosphere that never fails to enrapture me. Think Charm & Strange. Teeth.
I swear I’m going to do my best to write a real review but it’s hard alright?? I just need you to know that. It’s fucking eating at me. This story is like a cockroach trying to erase my all being and I’m fighting but in a good way? I’d be like aw cockroach why are you that way I love you, let me pet you – and that’s when you know I lost it because I’d more likely yell die bitch!! if a cockroach ever talks to me?? I mean??
Anyway, you’re probably wondering why I’m even starting this “””review””” by inflicting such creepiness on you but really, it makes sense. I swear it does. The Wicker King is like this adorable puppy who really is a cannibalistic zombie, who lures you into a fake sense of security, breaking your heart at your feet before slowly trying to make it whole again. I loved it so, so much.
So. What does The Wicker King do?
The Wicker King makes you care about characters who’re so neglected and lonely that you want to wrap them into a blanket and protect them but you CAN’T. These two glorious boys who deserve the world and who are just trying to do the best they can, damn it, and you, useless witness you cannot help but be affected and your heart is just squeezing randomly? Like a fucking entity that will not slow the fuck down and you’re struggling to breathe? If only they stopped being so fucking precious perhaps you could stop falling in love with them and avoid the heartache?
me : i just want to feel good
book : okay but have you tried smashing your heart on the floor
Trust me, I’ve read my fair share of unhealthy relationships, but never before was co-dependency addressed in text in such a raw and honest way.
“They were breathing in tandem now.”
Never before did I feel so strongly that it wasn’t my role to judge the characters but rather, to let them figure it out on their own and did I say that they were just trying to cope? Yeah? It’s important to me to point this out because that’s something I’ve been guilty of in the past, that is to say, judging teens characters through my adult eyes when really, I should know better.
I should remember how it feels when you’re 17 and none of your actions seem to break through the fog draped around the adults around you.
I should remember the intense sentiment of exhilaration one might feel around this someone who sees you.
“It started small, but it bubbled bigger every minute. Rising black and ugly through the veins in his feet, up and up, bursting through his cells and filling his lungs, encasing itself around his bones and finally spilling from his eyes, tacky like tar. It tumbled from his mouth in a howl of rage so deep it shook his teeth. The hairs rose on the back of his neck.
It was a shout of pain so pure and hot, he could have sworn it was burning out his eyes.”
Granted, I’ve often ranted about teen characters who try to handle things they clearly aren’t equipped to, screaming in the void, where are the adults?
But you know, these neglected kids exist. They’re all around us, and it’s so, so easy to close our eyes and fail to see them. So fucking easy. One of the hardest lesson I’ve learned as a teacher is that sometimes, the system doesn’t allow you enough place to… not make a difference, because we can, and I wouldn’t be a teacher if I didn’t believe it, but sometimes, even if you know in your core that something isn’t right, the system won’t help you – it will fight you, because stability is more important to the system than the lives of children. And trust me, I know how that sounds, and I’m not saying that the system is full of selfish individuals. But rather, that for individuals to get things done, a fight is needed and that yes, some adults are not willing to jump into it. And that breaks my heart. Paperwork will be filled, jobs considered done, and meanwhile, kids will be hurt. Then people will whisper, wide-eyed, how could that have happened? and I’ll want to punch them in the face because they refuse to see when it matters. Adults, please don’t be strangers. Please.
“Even as the sky falls and the only thing I can hear besides your voice is the screams of the dying and the thundering of horses?”
Told through short chapters that suit the story perfectly, one of most impressive quality of The Wicker King lies in its ability to make us connect so thoroughly with the characters that we evolve along with August, more and more trapped in Jack’s hallucinations, until the dark atmosphere envelops us completely. Kayla Ancrum‘s gorgeous and compelling writing allows us to take part in their whimsical quest and when the end comes, we’re shocked by the prickling awareness that we might as well have built our golden prison ourselves. We’re there, with them, for better and for worst. If my heartbeat is some kind of judge, mostly, for the best.
“August didn’t realize he was crying until his sobs began to choke him. “Is it over? Is it over? Is it over?”
Now, I’ve seen questions about a possible queerbaiting and I wanted to address it : I understand that readers who read the arc were put off by the open ending regarding August and Jack’s relationship, especially because queerbaiting is real and still so prevalent in young adult fiction. However, 1) August and Jack’s romance is canon in the finished version (Jack is bisexual, August is still questioning) and 2) I strongly believe that portraying questioning youths (and adults) is important, because they exist and hence deserve representation.
The Wicker King is The Glorious Thing I Will Never Forget. Period.
Now I need the paperback because the color gradient looks gorgeous. I’ve bought it and it’s PRECIOUS 😭
The Author’s Note was everything. Read it
CW – abuse, neglect, mental-illness (Jack has a degenerative hallucinatory disorder), codependency, anxiety, panic attacks, violence, use of ableist words like cr*zy.
This review has been written on February 6, 2018.
The Wicker King is a psychological young adult thriller that follows two friends struggling as one spirals into madness.
Jack once saved August’s life…now can August save him?
August is a misfit with a pyro streak and Jack is a golden boy on the varsity rugby team—but their intense friendship goes way back. Jack begins to see increasingly vivid hallucinations that take the form of an elaborate fantasy kingdom creeping into the edges of the real world. With their parents’ unreliable behavior, August decides to help Jack the way he always has—on his own. He accepts the visions as reality, even when Jack leads them on a quest to fulfill a dark prophecy.
August and Jack alienate everyone around them as they struggle with their sanity, free falling into the surreal fantasy world that feels made for them. In the end, each one must choose his own truth.
Written in vivid micro-fiction with a stream-of-consciousness feel and multimedia elements, K. Ancrum’s The Wicker King touches on themes of mental health and explores a codependent relationship fraught with tension, madness and love.