Johnny Worthen, Eleanor

David Venn loves her as she is. But she knows that she is a monster.

That is Eleanor’s biggest problem. Though she has plenty of other problems. Like high school — where she does her best to be the unseen Eleanor, always in the background, because it’s safer that way. Because if anyone finds out that she’s really a skinwalker — a shapeshifter — she’ll have to run away to survive. That’s what she did before, when the Navajo came to kill her parents, and she hid for fifty years in the form of a coyote.

But Eleano’rs biggest problem, other than being a monster, is the fact that her adoptive mother Tabitha is dying of cancer, which makes the social worker want to put her in a foster home. She doesn’t want to leave Tabitha. She wants to live a normal life, like a normal girl.

This is one of the most original takes on shapeshifter legends I’ve seen in YA fantasy, based upon Indian legends about skinwalkers — witches who can take another person’s shape, kill them, and then take their place in society. It’s also a very carefully crafted narrative, with two characters — Eleanor, and David Venn — who really come to life. This is one of a few books I’ve read this that goes down on my long term favorites list, along with Cruel Beauty. I got a copy out from the library along with a big stack of other new adult and YA fantasy. Then I read it out loud to my wife, because I thought she would love it (and she did). Then I ordered a copy for myself, which I don’t usually do when I can get a book from my local library.

Just one nitpicky point. Jolly Fish Press should really have hired a better proofreader. This book looks like it was proofread by somebody who thought that running a spell-check was good enough, and that caused me a series of low-level irritations. Pallet where there should have been palette. Homonym pairs like to/two confused a couple of times. Missing words, or extra words, or misplaced words, here and there. One place where they didn’t remember to use lay instead of laid (though I’ve seen books from big houses miss that point). It wasn’t frequent enough to ruin the experience of reading the book, but if there’s any way for them to at least fix the e-book, and any future print runs, I’d say they should make the investment. This is a book that ought to be more widely known than it is.

Leave a Reply