Friday, October 29, 2010
Title: The Night Wanderer
Author: Drew Hayden Taylor
Publisher: Annick Press, 2007
How I got it: This book was sent to me by the publisher for review.
Tiffany Hunter is dealing with a lot. She lives in Otter Lake, an Anishinabe (Ojibwa) reservation in central Ontario with her dad and grandmother. She's doing poorly in school, she fights with her dad constantly, and to make matters even more difficult she is trying to navigate a new relationship with a white boyfriend. Demons and ghost stories are the last thing on her mind—but they're the center of everything for Pierre L’Errant, the new boarder Tiffany's father has just taken into their home. Though from Europe, he is clearly Native, and mentions he is of Anishinabe ancestry. But who is he really, and where did he come from? Why has he come to Otter Lake, of all places? In The Night Wanderer, Drew Hayden Taylor gives us a new and refreshing twist on the centuries-old legend of the vampire.
The more I thought about this book, the more I liked it. At its heart, it is about home and family. Tiffany struggles with this, as she is constantly battling with her father over pretty much anything, though especially about her boyfriend Tony. There are a lot of underlying issues with this, as Tiffany's mother left her father, Keith, for a white man about a year earlier. Keith is still trying to recover, and unfortunately he isn't getting very far. He doesn't know how to handle his daughter, so he lets out his anger and pain on her—and she returns it full force. Stuck in the middle of this is Granny Ruth, Keith's mother. She's feisty, but is trying to deal with all of this pain and anger and not-talking-about-the-real-issue on her own, until Pierre enters the picture.
Pierre is a character we can sympathize with, though we're not sure we can trust him. His motives aren't clear until the very end. But what is clear is his attachment to his homeland, the place where he was born centuries before, when he made the decision to leave it and everything he knew for adventure and the unknown. He is not the tortured vampire struggling with what he is at his very essence, though there are hints that he has thought about it. He knows what he is and accepts it, which is truly a nice change from the brooding bad-boy vampire so popular in today's teen fiction.
Taylor works Anishinabe (more commonly known as Ojibwa) culture and language into Pierre's and Tiffany's intersecting stories—both in the modern and more ancient culture and teen experiences. Tiffany is trying to sort out what it means to be a part of her native community, often trying to escape it, though sometimes feeling guilty for not knowing more than she does (for example, she can't speak the language, like her grandmother). Usually I am hesitant to read fiction about certain cultures, especially Native American ones, for fear of misrepresentation of the people and the history. But because Taylor is Ojibwa himself, I trusted his descriptions and allowed myself to enjoy the story, knowing it is authentic. He also manages to include an interracial relationship and its resulting difficulties, such as racism and Tiffany's discomfort at being the only Native teen in a group of white ones.
Another thing I loved are the sometimes surprising little dashes of humor Taylor throws into his prose every so often. I found myself sporting a quick grin at many little details he includes, like this sentence in the middle of a suspenseful scene: "From deep in the bush, a hunter older than James, his house, and the mayonnaise at the back of his refrigerator all put together watched him closely" (79). But despite this comic relief, there are a few chapter that got my heart pounding—many strange and unnatural things are seen on the Otter Lake Reservation after Pierre arrives.
My only complaints lie with the characterization of Tiffany. For a while I felt like she was too flat of a character—I wasn't really getting where she was coming from, and she just seemed a bit off through the beginning. It took me a while to get into the book because it was mostly about Tiffany at first. However, once Taylor started writing about Pierre and other characters, I could see his talent better. I found out afterward that this was originally written as a play, and I thought that might have had something to do with it.
These days, everyone is sick of vampires and their sparkles and forbidden love interests in virginal white girls. But with his fresh interpretation and the addition of family drama and the importance of home, Taylor has given us a reason to enjoy vampire novels again.
This is the last stop on the Spooky Halloween Blog Tour, but be sure to check out the previous stops:
October 25: Teresa's Reading Corner
October 26: A Girl Reads a Book and YA Book Shelf
October 27: Chick Loves Lit
October 28: Word of Mouse Books
October 29: Me!
It's also available as a physical book at Amazon.com.
Or if you'd like to win a physical copy of The Night Wanderer for yourself, fill out the form below. This giveaway will end on November 1 at noon EST. Only one entry per person, please! I will delete people who enter more than once. If you're not sure you entered already, just shoot me an e-mail or tweet at me and I'll let you know.