I’m really surprised I didn’t read this book as a child. I was totally into the “kids living on their own” theme when I was in junior high. I actually wrote a book in eighth grade about a girl named Kia who escapes from her large family into a secret room in her house and then gets scurvy.
Okay, so maybe my book wasn’t exactly like this one, which is about a girl who escapes an arranged marriage by heading out onto the tundra and living on her own (with the help of a pack of wolves). But the themes of escape and self-sufficiency are in both. Well, except that my heroine wasn’t exactly self-sufficient.
Fine, my book wasn’t at all like this one, but I still think I would have liked Julie of the Wolves had I read it as a kid. My eight-year-old sure loves it, but I think she loves it more for the communicating-with-animals part (the same reason she loves Michelle Paver’s Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series).
I guess I’m not sure if it would really be so easy in real life to win the trust of a wolf pack, but then I’ve not tried. It didn’t seem so far-fetched to me that it detracted from the story, though. It was all a part of Julie/Miyax’s set-apartness. I loved how everything that others saw as backward and a result of poor decision-making, Julie saw as wonderful. She was almost magical in her specialness and her self-confidence. Naturally, she chafed in the life of the city, even as she tried so hard to belong there. But then, I think Jean Craighead George painted a scene in which Eskimo culture itself was chafing in the life of the city where the compromises of the old ways proved too much to maintain a sense of self.
This story left me feeling nostalgic for the time when magical things seemed possible to me, before grown-up pragmatism and self-consciousness boxed in and tamed that sense of possibility.
Will Julie’s magic make it through her adolescence, or will she be forced to compromise it? I’m almost too afraid to read the next books to find out.