I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.
When Paul Kane reached out to me about reviewing this book, I was immediately sold! Leaving Jackson Wolf is a coming of age contemporary story and I found the blurb intriguing. Read on to find out if the book matched my expectations. Spoiler alert: It did. BIG TIME.
Passing through the transition hallway at South Park High School was as mundane a task as passing along a text message. But not for Jackson Wolf and James McDougal. One spring day bullies randomly target them—teenage fists are thrown and suspensions are issued.
After school, Jackson is indifferent to McDougal’s overtures of friendship until the whiz-kid proposes they jam the security cameras of a local drug store with his iPhone and steal some beer. From there the two fringe boys, biracial Jackson and undersized McDougal, become fast friends. Together they combat bullies, their alcoholic fathers and bond over the beautiful—Syd and Lexi, indie music and extreme biking.
But as the boys grow in strength people start to exit from Jackson’s life, leading to him to question his choices and believe forces in the universe are conspiring against him. With the help of McDougal and the stunningly competent Jessica Lee, Jackson learns that he must draw on his own power and goodness as he confronts the possibility of his greatest loss yet.
Like I said, this book met my expectations big time! I love how more and more authors are using YA as the medium for powerful stories. Leaving Jackson Wolf is a riveting tale of love, loss, and moving on, and you’ll be left with tears and a big smile long after the last page has been turned.
In this book, Jackson Wolf, the titular character, grudgingly finds himself becoming friends with McDougal. Their circle extends to Jackson’s girlfriend, Lexi, and her friend, Syd. The gang comes together by chance and stays together because of how ugly each of their home situations are. These kids have to deal with alcoholic fathers, absentee fathers, alcoholic fathers who beat them up, and more.
While the first few chapters are slow, they’re necessary to show us how the group, and the main friendship between Jackson and McDougal come together. Slowly, Jackson realises that everyone in his life leaves at one point or another, and he gets depressed. How he comes out of this and understands how life really goes on despite loss and despair form the rest of the story.
While this is a coming of age story, it also has strong hints of literary fiction. The story is riveting, yes, but this is an out and out character-driven book. Paul Kane has done a stellar job in fleshing out each of the characters. Even McDougal’s dad, who has only one significant scene in the story, is a memorable character.
I’ve always loved reading about how parents’ behaviour can mould their children’s characters, and clearly, Paul is excellent at portraying it. It’s so easy to explain each of the 4 main characters once you know how their home situation is. And that is one of the best things about this book.
You should definitely check out Leaving Jackson Wolf if you like coming of age stories that are also powerful, tear-jerking, and have extremely well-written characters that you can’t help but root for.
What a brilliant, brilliant read!
Rating: 4.5 out of 5