Review: Peter the Wolf by Zoe E. Whitten
Peter the Wolf
Summary From Goodreads:
Peter Holmes is a troubled teen still grieving the death of his sister. A victim of long term abuse, he escaped his parents only to find life as a foster child is another form of torture. Now living with his fourth family after a stint in juvenile detention, his view of his future is bleak until he meets Alice Culpepper and learns about the world of competitive gymnastics. But as Peter trains in the Culpepper gym and tries to get his life on track, his growing friendship with Alice threatens his new life, his foster family, and even his freedom. As if things couldn’t get any worse, his insane mother just escaped from prison…
Warning: This book is highly controversial and includes detailed descriptions of abuse and child pornography. (However, I DID really enjoy it so please read on if you can handle the content!)
This is one of the most well written books I’ve read in recent memory, it elicited the strongest emotions I’ve ever felt while reading a book in my entire life (that’s saying something) and I stayed up through the night to finish it despite working the next day because I HAD to finish it. Which is why it is such a shame that so few people are likely to ever read it. Sure, the market for “indie” authors isn’t huge as it is, but for a book with the content that Peter the Wolf has it is seemingly tiny. If you have read past the “More” tag and were willing to read this review then I urge you to give it a chance, it is worth your time and then some.
Peter is a fascinating character in terms of how I felt about him as a reader throughout the book. At times I loved him for the way he battled through his addictions and did his best to hold back any urges he had. He wanted to keep his past, and even more so what thoughts went on in his head, from people because he knew how they would view it, sadly from past experience. You sympathize with his plight, what he went through and how much it is altering the life he now has to lead. He’s hilarious and I was in fits throughout much of the book. Peter is also very loving and devoted to those who show him some kindness which is an admirable quality considering what he dealt with when he was young by those who should have loved him most. However, other times he can be hard to root for. While he tries to hold back in some instances he doesn’t do it consistently, usually only giving into the movies in his head by letting them continue, not acting them out, but on occasion that’s not all he allows himself to do. Like the rest of the book, Peter is wonderfully complex and polarizing.
However, as great a character as Peter is, Alice is what makes this book for me. She’s a precocious little minx and while I’m sure some would say it is unlikely she would be as forward as she is in parts of the book, I would disagree. The type of behavior isn’t common by any means for a girl her age, but it isn’t unheard of and Whitten does a great job making her a believable character. Oh, and she’s freaking hilarious, you think Peter is funny? He’s got nothing on Alice. She’s easily attached, which is fitting for her age, and is as devoted and loving as you can get. She’s sweet, understanding and trusting (perhaps to a fault) and I couldn’t get enough of her. Without Alice being as strong of a character as she is the story could have lost believability and the emotional highs and lows would be drastically reduced in effectiveness.
I’ve mentioned the emotions elicited by Peter the Wolf but I want to clarify, I don’t mean I had a case of the “feels” or something akin to that reaction. This book is powerful. Whitten doesn’t hold back on the details of what Peter went through as a kid and the trauma he went through would destroy some (if not most) people. She also don’t hide, and in fact showcases, the kind of thoughts going through Peter’s head on a constant basis. They are graphic, have (almost) no boundaries and imagining what it would be like to have that “movie” constantly going on your head is pretty scary. PtW examines the strength of love and how much it can conquer (an old trope but it works), how someone can suffer greatly but still find joy in life and the intensity of addiction. Most importantly, at least to me, Whitten shows what it is like to be completely shunned by society for who you are, how little support there is out there for people like Peter and what someone like him has to go through in order to just function on a day-to-day basis. It is incredibly difficult and the burden of keeping those secrets is IMMENSE.
While you can see the transition into the supernatural world coming the transition is still a bit rough. To be honest I think the book was strong enough on its own prior to the supernatural additions and might not have needed them, but that is not to say it didn’t work. The supernatural elements made some of Peter’s backstory more logical and the adventures he goes on in the latter part of the story wouldn’t have been possible without them. I look forward to seeing how this area of the book is expanded on in the rest of the series.
Peter the Wolf is, again, an excellent piece. I’ve never had an emotional reaction and connection with a character as strong as I did in this one with Peter. Because of that, for me personally seeing how the world reacted to him was hard to take, if unsurprising. The writing was wonderful, detailed and unabashed. The characters are wonderful and Alice especially was fun to get to know. The content in PtW is controversial to be sure, but to say the book is worth reading regardless would be a massive understatement. I can’t say I’d “recommend it to everyone” like I normally would with a book I enjoyed this much because of the nature of it, but anyone mature enough to handle the content DEFINITELY should read it! Thanks as always for reading, and Whitten if you are reading this, sincerely, thank you for this masterpiece.