Monday, August 6, 2018

Review: The Wicker King by K. Ancrum

The Wicker King by K. Ancrum
Imprint, 2017
Hardcover. 320 pages.

About the book:
"When August learns that his best friend, Jack, shows signs of degenerative hallucinatory disorder, he is determined to help Jack cope. Jack’s vivid and long-term visions take the form of an elaborate fantasy world layered over our own—a world ruled by the Wicker King. As Jack leads them on a quest to fulfill a dark prophecy in this alternate world, even August begins to question what is real or not. 

August and Jack struggle to keep afloat as they teeter between fantasy and their own emotions. In the end, each must choose his own truth."

I read The Wicker King a couple months or so ago, but it's been a hard one for me to put my thought together for a review so I kept putting it off. It's one of those books that I keep thinking about, though, so I decided it's time to finally get around to reviewing it.

The Wicker King is a book that hit me much harder than I expected it to. It's also a contemporary YA novel, and contemporary is not something I'm regularly drawn to. However, there are always a few that grab me, and this book didn't read like your typical contemporary YA novel, either. This tells the story of two teenage boys, Jack and August, who are best friends--though 'best friends' almost feels too casual for their relationship dynamic--and undergo a huge variety of intense life struggles and difficulties, all while one of them slowly begins to experience and more hallucinations that overtake his life.

The Wicker King, to me, is truly a brilliant story that Ancrum could not have told in a better fashion. It's raw and real, and really packs a much deeper punch than you might expect. In addition to the relationship dynamic between Jack and August and the mental health issues of depression and anxiety, among others, another big part of this book are the hallucinations that Jack has. His mind has been building this strong, somewhat brutal fantasy world that becomes something so real and believable to him that he starts to live in both worlds. Both he and August take on roles that are visible only in this world and try to figure out what is happening, despite the fact that Jack is the only one that is truly seeing it.

August tends to act as a bit of caregiver for Jack who is slowly but surely delving deeper and deeper into the hallucinations that he's been having for years. Not only does August care for Jack during these moments, but he also provides a sort of stable constant for Jack while his own parents are a not around. In addition, his hallucinations are slowly becoming more intense and are beginning to merge fully into his daily life in the real world. I found both August and Jack to both be such fascinating characters with so much depth to them that made them feel so honest and real. It was the strong depth and three-dimensional quality of them that really pulled me fully into the story and really made me feel involved with what was happening.

This is not a lighthearted book in any way, really. There is a lot of pain and struggling throughout, and the mental health representation just felt so incredible careful, nuanced, and just on point overall. I don't want to go into too many details on what I'm about to mention in case of giving too much away, but I also found there to be some subtle but important dom/sub components that I think were really well done and so respectful of the concept, especially for a young adult novel.

This is also one of those books where the physical book itself is slightly interactive and tells a story. For instance, my favorite aspect is that the pages start off as your average white pages with black text, but as Jack falls deeper and deeper into his hallucinations and the two begin to struggle more and more, the pages get darker and by the end of the book, they are completely black with white text. I love books that really capture the atmosphere that well and just go the extra step to make it a unique and memorable experience.

Overall, I've of course given this one five stars. Even if you aren't much of a young adult reader, this one really does stand out and makes for a great read for a variety of reasons.

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

No comments:

Post a Comment