Counting Wolves by Michael F. Stewart (2017)
Teen Fiction | Contemporary
“The Breakfast Club meets Grimm’s Fairy Tales in the lair of an adolescent psych ward.
Milly’s evil stepmother commits her to a pediatric psych ward. That’s just what the wolf wants. With bunk mates like Red, who’s spiraling out of control; Pig, a fire-bug who claims Milly as her own—but just wants extra dessert—Vanet, a manic teen masquerading as a fairy godmother with wish-granting powers as likely to kill as to help; and the mysterious Wolfgang, rumored to roam for blood at night; it doesn’t take long for Milly to realize that only her dead mother’s book of tales can save her.
But Milly’s spells of protection weaken as her wolf stalks the hospital corridors. The ward’s a Dark Wood, and she’s not alone. As her power crumbles, she must let go of her magic and discover new weapons if she is to transform from hunted to hunter.”
Expected Publication Date: August 14, 2017
pooled ink Review:
The cover of this book caught my eye and the story caught me by surprise. I was definitely ready for this to be a paranormal book or something filled with fairytales but it wasn’t. Well, there were lots of fairytales spun throughout but not in the way I’d anticipated. Stewart was simply able to craft the reality in Milly’s mind so well that even I was waiting for the Wolf to pounce.
When all is said and done I feel that this was a really interesting look into mental illness. And as I mentioned before, it was rather unexpected. Although it doesn’t take long to figure out that Milly’s world is perhaps built for her alone, it was so vivid that a part of me was never quite sure what to believe.
Counting Wolves takes on a heavy subject and manages to convey the weight and reality of someone suffering from guilt and OCD in a way that is emotionally convicting but not so heavy to keep this book from being an enjoyable read. There is plenty of laughter, fear, anger, and, well, it has a full spectrum emotions as Milly, and those around her, navigate her situation.
One major villain in this tale of wolves and hunters is Adriana, Milly’s stepmom. As this story is told from Milly’s point of view it is easy to feel angry at her for giving up, not taking the time to understand or accept Milly’s world, and eventually admitting her to a psych ward in the hospital. But when removed from Milly’s POV I understand that it takes a very special type of person to care for those suffering with a mental illness with the patience and compassion they need. It’s completely understandable and realistic for Adriana to feel so desperate.
This book really showed how Milly and all of those around her all struggled and were affected by Milly’s compulsions and beliefs. It showed the love, the desperation, the mistakes, the judgment, the confusion, and the hope.
I know that I do not possess the patience required to handle the teens in this story, but I’m so glad for the advancements in mental care. As for me, as shameful as it is to admit, I became frustrated the more I read. Having to wait for Milly to count to 100, having to endure her constant tirades over the Wolf. It made me feel frustrated and stressed out, but that’s what makes this book really good. Because you really feel how Milly feels, but also how those around her feel. Stewart did a really good job of writing a story that pulls you into Milly’s mind.
There’s a lot of layers to this book, and the other teens in the ward are just as colorful as Milly’s character. It’s not a very long book and it covers a short period of time but it’s enough to really establish Milly and set her on the path towards hope. Counting Wolves was an unexpected journey through the Dark Wood filled with surprising friendships, emotional revelations, and twisting paths.
Similar recommended reads: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma, 100 Days of Cake by Shari Goldhagen, The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness, Nice Girls Endure by Chris Struyk-Bonn, Rainbows and Raindrops by Kelley Lynn & Jenny S. Morris, Devil and the Bluebird by Jennifer Mason-Black, In Place of Never by Julie Anne Lindsey
Meet Michael F. Stewart!
Michael F. Stewart is the winner of the 2015 Claymore Award and author of the Assured Destruction Series (a Foreword Book of the Year Honorable Mention, Library Journal’s Best Self Published Book 2015: runner-up, semifinalist in the 2014 Kindle Book Awards, and winner of The Creation of Stories: Best YA Award at the Toronto International Book Fair).
He likes to combine storytelling with technology and pioneered interactive storytelling with Scholastic Canada, Australia and New Zealand’s, anti-cyberbullying program Bully For You.
Herder of four daughters, Michael lives to write in Ottawa where he was the Ottawa Public Library’s first Writer in Residence and runs free writing workshops.