Review of “Julie’s Wolf Pack”

From my GoodReads Review

At last, I’ve finished re-reading this trilogy from my childhood. The last installment is, somewhat predictably, not as good as the first two books. It wavers between being a narrative and an informative text and fails to blend the two aspects together with the same ease that the first two did. As a result, the final installment of the Julie trilogy is simply not as engaging as the first two–the first book, Julie of the Wolves, being the best of the series by far.

In some ways the information presented in this book makes up for the out-of-date information on wolves in the first book. It doesn’t fully square away the bad science, but it seems to acknowledge that our understanding of wolf behavior was in flux at the time of writing. I would even say that the story itself gives a nod to the research that left us with the faulty idea about pack relations, which was done in captivity and not a natural setting, with unrelated wolves who were strangers to each other, all of which increased anxiety in the specimens and resulted in behavior as unnatural as the setting. This is only briefly alluded to near the end of the novel and the portrayal of wolf behavior and relations doesn’t change overly much from the first installment of the series, but it is nice to see some potential acknowledgement of the faulty early studies–even if it’s unintentional and I’m just reading too much into it. That is, of course, always possible for a comparative literature student. 😉

Unfortunately the writing of this book isn’t as engaging as the first two, either. In many ways the evocative descriptions of life on the tundra are intact, but in general they feel more technical than emotive. The pattern and feeling of the book seems very, “And then this happened, which caused this happen, so that happened, at which point this happened…” Rather than flowing naturally it feels somewhat forced and quite stilted, so that the beautiful descriptions become a bit lost and lose their color and meaning.

It was actually quite difficult to stay focused on this book for all of these reasons. I found my mind wandering quite a bit, so that at several points I would think to myself, “Wait, what just happened?” and would have to flip back several pages and scan for what was going on and how we’d gotten to where we were.

Part of this is definitely due to my age and age of the target audience. Obviously I am not in the age group of the target audience anymore, and noticed a lot more during this reading than in my initial elementary-school reading. I don’t doubt that a reader of the right age group would still thoroughly enjoy this book and learn plenty from it as well. However, this is only part of why I couldn’t enjoy this book very much. I obviously enjoyed re-reading the first two, and they set me to reflecting greatly on the impressions the series had left on me as a child and how my views on the subject matter have changed with time and education. I did not have that experience with reading this book, and this is because it genuinely has shortcomings that cannot be accounted for by my being outside of the target audience: the writing simply isn’t as good as the first two books, nor is the story as engaging. In many ways the story doesn’t feel as meaningful, though I’m sure it would feel every ounce as meaningful as the first two had the writing only lifted it up and made it so.

That said, I still look forward to inscribing this book–the same copy I read as a child–with a letter for its next reader and passing it on to a kid who will appreciate it and breathe more life into it with another couple of reads. It’ll be good for the book to find itself in a new home where it is needed and loved, and good for its new owner to have the opportunity to delve into something she loves and getting more reading under her belt.

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