On the surface, Tell the Wolves I’m Home, is about June Elbus, a young girl whose favorite uncle dies of AIDS in 1987. It’s the early days, when misinformation, fear, and hate rule the day. With a 2012 publication date (and a 2015 reading) I read of June’s experience with a perspective that time, distance and education afford. For me, the book isn’t so much about AIDS and how that terrifying diagnosis affects the Elbus family but about what happens when you allow fear, and disappointment, and blame to dictate your behavior and parenting decisions.
No doubt, June is a special person. Her uncle Finn is an exceptional person. Upon Finn’s death, June learns of a third special person, Toby. And the real story begins. The past and present are wrapped up in secrets and complicated entanglements. The more June unravels the mystery of her mother's and Finn's relationship, the more she becomes wrapped up in Toby.
In the end, June shines a light on what’s true and important, proving herself worthy of Finn and her promise to him. I disagree with reviewers who say the end is sad. The sadness is what comes before the end. And the end is what gives hope. The end is when we know June will be OK.