From critically acclaimed Shaun David Hutchinson comes a gritty and raw portrayal of the oftentimes traumatic experience of growing up.
Virgil Knox was attacked by a monster.
Of course, no one in Merritt believes him. Not even after he stumbled into the busy town center, bleeding, battered, and bruised, for everyone to see. He’d been drinking, they said. He was hanging out where he wasn’t supposed to, they said. It must’ve been a bear, or a badger, or a gator—definitely no monster.
Virgil doesn’t think it was any of those things. He’s positive it was a monster. But being the new kid in a town where everybody knows everybody is hard enough as it is without being the kid who’s afraid of monsters, so he tries to keep a low profile.
Except he knows the monster is still out there. And if he isn’t careful, Virgil’s afraid it’ll come back to finish him off, or worse—that he’ll become one himself.
Be forewarned – this is a visceral, gut-wrenching read, but you won’t be able to put it down. I finished this novel in less than a day.
Virgil’s parents are going through a tough divorce, and he’s ripped away from his boyfriend and best friend when his father relocates them across the country to his hometown. It’s a very backwards and unwelcoming small town. To make things worse, after Virgil’s attacked by a monster, no one believes him – including his own father and grandparents – even though he has over sixty stitches to show for it. Kids at school bully him and play pranks on him. No one listens or pays attention to his silent cries for help. He suffers from terrifying nightmares, sleeps in his closet, doesn’t eat, and flinches when touched. It’s implied what happened to him was his fault, and he should suck it up and box up his feelings. My heart broke for him.
Luckily, he has two supportive people in his life – his cousin Astrid and Tripp, a friend he makes at school. Both are standout characters, and Tripp’s humor brings some lighter moments to the story. At his previous school, Virgil was in the drama club and has a talent for acting. Becoming someone else on stage brings him joy, and his new drama teacher goes above and beyond to provide a safe space for him in class and on the stage. He also connects Virgil with an out-of-town therapist since the only local one is the homophobic pastor.
Howl is a powerful story that will stick with you long after reading. The author does an incredible job of writing about trauma and the stigma associated with it. It’s relatable on so many levels and will resonate with readers in different ways. Although a tough read at times, it’s absolutely worth it.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.