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Friday, July 27, 2012

Under My Skin, written by Charles de Lint. Razorbill, Penguin. 2012. $21.00 ages 14 and up

"Elzie told me that some of the older animal people, like this Auntie Min, have been around for centuries. How's that even possible? More to the point, will it happen to us? Will we just stop aging?(...)Living forever. How weird would that be? It's be like you were a vampire without the icky blood-drinking or having to hide away all day from the sun."

I did not expect to love this book...and I was wrong, so wrong! I have read a lot of fantasy in my reading lifetime, but not in the past few years. So, when this title was the next to read on my jury list, I thought I would plow through and get it done! I had no idea! Now, I learn that Charles de Lint has 35 other novels that I had better check out. It is the great delight of being a reader, isn't it?

It is an urban fantasy, and the first in the new Wildlings series. Josh is the main character and we follow all that happens to him once he makes the discovery that he is a wildling. Nothing could have prepared him for his shape shifting ability until he becomes enraged by his mother's physically abusive boyfriend:

"He aims a kick at me and I come up off the floor. I know he's going to beat the crap out of me, but I don't care. And that's when it gets weird. It's me wanting to take a swing at him, but by the time I'm off the floor, I'm something else. Some kind of huge animal. My hand's a paw that slashes the side of his head and sends him reeling back into the hall."

It's been happening to other kids in Santa Feliz, a small California coastal city. Other teens are making headlines when they start shape shifting and become animals. It is causing wide-spread panic and has the FBI involved in trying to find each of the Wildlings.

Josh immediately tells his two friends, Des and Marina. In alternating chapters, Marina becomes the other first person narrator and helps readers understand the events from a second point of view. It is a tense and uniquely believable tale. I was interested from the get-go and always checking ahead to see if I could read 'just one more chapter'. Seems I could; I finished it quickly and with great satisfaction.

Josh deals with the changes and the huge emotional impact in such a normal way...concerned about how his life will be affected, excited that he has this new existence and ability, and wondering where it will lead in the future. Marina is unable to share her secret. She lives with the guilt that comes from that inability. There is amazing detail in this story, and the reader is never able to predict what might happen next. It's hard to determine who is trustworthy, what the implications of discovery might be, and how Josh will deal if others learn his secret.

I can't wait to hear the announcement for the release of the second book in this remarkable new fantasy series.

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