on February 7th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Young Adult
Published by Knopf Canada
Setting: British Columbia
Everyone knows a guy like Jared: the burnout kid in high school who sells weed cookies and has a scary mom who's often wasted and wielding some kind of weapon. Jared does smoke and drink too much, and he does make the best cookies in town, and his mom is a mess, but he's also a kid who has an immense capacity for compassion and an impulse to watch over people more than twice his age, and he can't rely on anyone for consistent love and support, except for his flatulent pit bull, Baby Killer (he calls her Baby)--and now she's dead.
Jared can't count on his mom to stay sober and stick around to take care of him. He can't rely on his dad to pay the bills and support his new wife and step-daughter. Jared is only sixteen but feels like he is the one who must stabilize his family's life, even look out for his elderly neighbours. But he struggles to keep everything afloat...and sometimes he blacks out. And he puzzles over why his maternal grandmother has never liked him, why she says he's the son of a trickster, that he isn't human. Mind you, ravens speak to him--even when he's not stoned.
You think you know Jared, but you don't.
This is not the book that I expected from the blurb. I expected urban fantasy with Jared finding out he’s supernatural in the beginning of the book and then he has adventures. That doesn’t happen. Instead this is a hard look at the life of a First Nations teenager who lives with his unreliable and violent drug dealer mother and her boyfriend. This book takes you up close and personal into a life of poverty and crime. There is almost no magic happening for the first 2/3 of the book.
It even has two of my automatic DNF plots. His dog dies of heartworm at the beginning of the book (with a very odd veterinary clinic scene that isn’t anything that would happen for real). There is also a scene of his mother killing a dog with her truck on purpose. Animal abuse is a DNF.
I also absolutely hate stories of teenagers who do nothing but drink and take drugs. I hate it in real life and I hate wasting my time on that type of plot in books.
So, knowing all that, why did I finish this book and think it was great?
The writing pulled me in and kept me engaged with the story. Jared looks like he has nothing going for him. His mother is an addict and dealer. He is doing some low-level dealing. But he is trying to keep his mother’s bills paid while also trying to keep his father and his new wife’s rent up to date. He even helps his elderly neighbors with their chores. None of the adult relatives in Jared’s life are responsible so he feels that he needs to be. The only person he feels like he may be able to rely on is his paternal grandmother but his mother has forbidden him to talk to her. He does anyway and he really wants to go live with her in order to finish school but he feels that it would be a betrayal of his mother, even when she is continuously betraying him. By the end you want to protect him from yet another person who lets him down.
As Jared starts to see manifestations of his traditional beliefs appearing before him, he decides that he has been doing too many drugs and decides to get clean. I love that that was his response to an invisible bear in the living room and cavemen in his bedroom. But the magic is real and has always been there even if it is just starting to get through to him.
The author did a good job depicting the charm vs the dangerous irresponsibility of a drug-involved parent. Jared’s mom obviously loves him and dotes on him but she also exposes him to men who hurt him and she will disappear without warning. She relies on him to get her through bad trips and lavishes presents on him when she is manic. She’s horrible but draws you into her self-absorbed world.
Jared’s friends feel real. They are a mix of popular and unpopular kids. Native and non-Native also. Each is well fleshed out and are unique characters.
Of course this book really started to pick up for me when the magic became more apparent. And then it was over. I feel like there wasn’t a resolution. This is part one of a series so I know that there will be more to the story but I would have liked to see more of an ending than this.