Overall I can understand why Tell the Wolves I'm Home would appeal to many readers and be touted as it is. However, I do feel as though it belongs in youth fiction rather than general fiction due to the main character being 14-15 years old. I did enjoy the setting: 1980s during the hysteria of the AIDS epidemic. I was too young to understand it while it was actually happening but the book does revive it quite well.
The book moves rather slowly, especially in the beginning, and you keep wondering what the "big" thing that is going to happen is. Things seem like a lead up to something that never actually happens. The way in which the story is told is also odd in a way, as you keep getting the sense that it was written about someone's fourteen year old experience but is now much older. I kept thinking a chapter would come about where it says "Twenty Years Later" or something such as that, at the very least at the end of the book. Quite honestly I think that may have added something to the book overall.
The only characters I actually liked were the main character, June, and her Uncle Finn and his partner Toby. Honestly I liked both Finn and Toby more than June, especially since June was a bit odd with her apparent misunderstanding of people (and he constant mentioning of it) and worst of all, her love for her Uncle. Her "first love" is her Uncle. I'm sorry, but what? That is just too strange to me, especially as she is fourteen and not only admits this to herself but Toby? Huh?
Finn, although he was in the book quite little due to his death, was an interesting character. I would have liked to have more Finn and Toby interactions. Finn rather reminded me of Tom Hanks' character in Philadelphia, although he enjoyed opera while Finn enjoys classical music. Toby, I wish there had been more Toby as the summary implies. The summary implies that June and Toby become very close but June constantly keeps him at a distance and even treats him poorly many times. I did not understand this at all since she should want to be close to him to learn more of her "first love". Jealously is mentioned as a reason, seriously? Jealousy of Finn's partner? June, oh June, you are so screwed up.
Overall I felt as though the character of Toby was really given the short end of the stick in this novel. Finn allows him to carry the blame and hatred for Finn's illness. Finn also allows his family to dictate when Toby should leave their apartment so they can come over. June's mother treats Toby like a murderer, as does Greta (June's sister). Toby is then asked to help Greta by June because June couldn't just grow a pair and confront her parents. This of course drives Toby's demise in the end. Poor Toby. And poor plot development that requires a pathetic excuse of June calling Toby and making him do something ridiculous to drive the plot!Greta is out in the rain drunk, right near the house woods, and June can't tell her parents or sneak out herself? Really? She calls Toby in the CITY to come all the way and do it? WTF? So now he gets pneumonia or whatever and dies? Ugh.
Greta. Oh Greta, she really makes me happy I didn't have any siblings close in age. WTF was the point of the relationship between Greta and June? So Greta is a terrible older sister versus a good one when they were younger--doesn't that happen all the time? I kept feeling like there was going to be a big "oooh" moment with that storyline but it just fizzled into nothing. So Greta was jealous, big whoop, apparently everyone in the damn book was jealous of something. And Greta is this big deal talented actress/singer at school and potentially Broadway and she is THAT bitter about Finn's relationship with June? Seriously? And why the hell couldn't the parents even tell Greta was drunk and/or a bitch? I'm sorry, but that storyline was worthless and all over the place.
The premise and setting of Tell the Wolves I'm Home are good ones, I just wish it hadn't been weighed down with ridiculous inclusions. The topic of AIDS in the 80s is an excellent one and I would love to see another author take it on. Like I said, I can see why the writing would appeal to many people, I just could not get on board with many of the situations and/or characters that the author decided upon. I really was hoping for an "oooh" moment or two, they just never came.