cover image Wolf Boy

Wolf Boy

Evan Kuhlman, , illus. by Brendon and Brian Fraim. . Crown/Shaye Areheart, $23 (314pp) ISBN 978-0-307-33696-5

Gene and Helen Harrelson sleep in separate bedrooms after a car accident in an ice storm kills their oldest child, Francis, a sophomore at the local University of Illinois, Carbondale, while younger siblings Stephen and Crispy struggle to cope with the loss of their mentor. In this dysfunctional family tale, happiness escapes the characters in a "slow, persistent leak" as Kuhlman wryly dissects seemingly innocent moments, like Stephen's assumption that the stranger on the phone is a telemarketer and not the messenger of his older brother's death. Stephen, more or less at the center of the book, channels his grief into stories for a comic called The Adventures of Wolf Boy , illustrated by his charmingly odd girlfriend, Nicole, and woven beautifully throughout the novel. Wolf Boy lives in Forgotten City and grapples with the death of older brother Johnny Laredo while battling villains and trying to save the world. But while the novel offers inventive twists on the story of a boy trying to save his own world (i.e., his grieving family), Kuhlman can't quite pack everything in, so that the small and subtle opening chapters end up getting inked out. (Apr.)