cover image The Children and the Wolves

The Children and the Wolves

Adam Rapp. Candlewick, $16.99 (160p) ISBN 978-0-7636-5337-8

Writing in the visceral narrative style readers have come to expect from him, Rapp (Punkzilla) plunges readers into the minds of three emotionally disturbed teens and the four-year-old girl they have kidnapped and keep chained up in a basement. The driving force behind the trio’s actions is intelligent and cold-blooded 14-year-old Bounce, who tests the limits of her power by manipulating insecure Wiggins and violent Orange into being her pawns, “my perfect little monkey boys,” feeding them prescription drugs, toying with them sexually, and making them fight each other. The three collect donations for the girl’s disappearance with the aim of buying a Glock to kill an elderly poet. Only Wiggins’s struggling conscience stands in the way of Bounce’s bloodlust. Bigotry, neglect, violence, and desensitization to all of the above intermingle in a story that’s particularly devoid of hope, even for Rapp. Even four-year-old Frog seems beyond salvation, as she obsessively plays a violent video game that isn’t any more disturbing than what’s going on in the rest of the book. It’s an unrelentingly bleak indictment of a world far gone, where the best—perhaps only—option is to abandon society altogether. Ages 14–up. (Feb.)