Wolf in White Van only landed on my radar because of its author: John Darnielle is a member of one of my favorite bands, The Mountain Goats. (I’ll add a Spotify playlist of some of my favorite songs to the bottom of this post.) I probably saw this book in an upcoming books list on The Millions, and it seems there was quite a bit of hype for a first novel, not that the author is unknown by any means. I read the blurb and was a bit skeptical, but once I got my hands on the book (okay, downloaded it from OverDrive), I was won over almost immediately.
It’s a novel told in reverse, like Time’s Arrow (which is better) or Lotería (which is oh so much worse). The protagonist, Sean, has suffered a disfiguring facial injury that has left him ostracized by his parents and most of society. He generally stays at home with frequent visits from a nurse. He spends his time working on a mail-order roleplaying game called Trace Italian, which he came up with when he was a teenager and in the hospital. We slowly discover what his world is like and what has happened to him.
Oh, this book is so good. It’s my favorite novel-length novel so far this year (which, of course, counts out The Strange Library). It’s so much better than I expected – and very different. It’s what I’d imagine John Green‘s novels might be like without all of the insufferable sap. (I say I’d imagine because I’ve never actually read one word John Green has written, and I absolutely refuse to. I’ll link back to this post when I break down and read one of his novels…)
Seriously, y’all. Mountain Goats fan or not, you need to read this book.
And here’s the promised Mountain Goats playlist: