Winterfolk by Janel Kolby

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Kolby, Janel. Winterfolk. Harper Teen, 2018. 320p. ISBN: 9780062487001. $17.99 HS, OT *****

Rain is a somewhat dreamy, poetic type of person. She lives in a wooded area at the edge of Seattle with her dad and a loosely associated community of people who call the woods their home. The day before her birthday, notices go up throughout the woods telling them that the city is cutting down the woods and everyone living there is about to be displaced. This kicks off a 2 day adventure into the city for Rain and her one true friend, King. This being her birthday, King takes her with him to a laundromat for the gift of a shower and to the library where she will see more books than she ever imagined possible. But unlike Rain, King knows the dangers of the city, and once there enemies catch up with them, old evils haunt and the dark parts of survival creep in.

With drugs, violence, strip clubs and exploitation this is not an easy story. But it is a true kind of story where not having a house and living on the margins is dangerous and risky in unpredictable ways. Everyone is a stranger, and not all of them trustworthy. Of course there are good, decent people and Rain does meet some. But knowing them apart from others is tricky for a girl whose friends have mostly been squirrels and trees. Ultimately Rain wants to help her community and the woods where they live; she wants to tell the world about the Winterfolk and save their place. But she also must come to terms with her sad family history, the loss of her mother, and the absence of adults who can provide for her. And here on the cusp of adulthood she needs to figure out who she can trust and who she will be. There are some diverse characters here including a gender queer runaway, but most are presumed white.

This book is a mix of a cruel and unsympathetic world on the one hand and a dreamy fantasy life on the other. Rain is a person who constantly reinvents and interprets what’s happening around her making for a lyrical, introspective book. With mature themes and content it is recommended for high school and older readers.

Andrea Mullarkey, Berkeley Public Library

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