Title: We Were Wolves
Author: Jason Cockcroft
Illustrator: Jason Cockcroft
Publisher: Andersen Press
Genre: Teen fiction/young adult, Contemporary, Fantasy
Book format: Hardback
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Description:  The boy lives in a caravan on his own in the woods.  His dad, John, is in prison but promises he’ll be out soon.  All the boy needs to do is survive alone for a little while longer.
But dark forces are circling – like the bad man he’s been warned about, who arrives asking questions; and the rucksack the boy must keep hidden; and maybe, just maybe, more ancient forces that have lain asleep for an age…

*Free copy provided by publisher for review…

Review:  This is an interesting and dark story which turned out very different from what I first thought.  A boy and his father live in a caravan near the woods.  The boy’s father teaches him how to look after himself, which mushrooms to pick, how to grow food, etc., and the boy seems happy.  But one day when his father ends up in prison the boy has to look after himself.  His father promises he won’t be long, but as time goes by the boy has to be careful, to not only look after himself, but to look out for dangerous people who might come to the caravan, and dangerous forces beneath the ground.

We Were Wolves book page image one
©The Strawberry Post

The teenage boy, whose name we never learn, narrates the story and from the start we learn about how he came to be living in a caravan with his dad rather than with his mother in a house.  The story is interesting and the narration is good.  The story is quite dark and sad in parts as we learn how the boy’s father is an ex-soldier who has come back from war in the desert and how it’s clearly affected him in a big way (PTSD).  The boy’s father struggles to live a normal life after the war and he ends up moving into the woods, with the boy, his son, going with him for reasons you find out as you read the story.  Despite the difficulties though the boy is happy living with his father and things seem to be alright until his father ends up in prison and the boy has to look after himself.

The story is quite dark in what happens, especially later on when his dad does come out of prison.  The story is marked as being a fantasy, but it feels more  like a dark contemporary tale with a slight fantasy element rather than fantasy.  There are lots of dark and sadder moments, especially when we find out who the boys father is working with and what lengths he seems to be prepared to go to, against the law, in order to fulfil a Job.  We know from the start of the book that something bad will happen to his father, the boy is narrating his story as if looking back at what has happened, but it’s still a very interesting read despite the foreshadowing and I found myself more and more gripped by it the more I read on.

We Were Wolves book page image two
©The Strawberry Post

Apart from the boy’s father we meet some other characters too.  I especially like the dog that the boy meets and adopts and Sophie who is an important part of the story too.  I like how Sophie helps to ground the boy and what she does later on in the story.  The moments with Sophie are interesting and feel so different to moments with the boy’s father.  The build up to the ending is exciting, you feel like you know what will happen, but in fact you really don’t.  Inevitably something happens with the boy’s father but there are other things that happen that I really wasn’t expecting and it made for very interesting and gripping reading especially during that last action scene.

Although this story is very much a contemporary tale, it also has some fantasy elements.  The boy sees and feels creatures, animals and beasts that he believes are out there, and it’s interesting how these things appear later in the story and meld with the actual tale of what happens well.  I do think it’s a bit difficult to label this as a fantasy though and would rather call it contemporary ya but with an element of something odd.

The illustrations are amazing.  There are pictures throughout the book on some of the pages, either on a double page, one page, or around some text.  Each illustration is in black, white and grey and I love how they add to the atmosphere of the tale!  Some images make you feel the creepy atmosphere of the places, or the eeriness of some creatures that are there.  Other images show the wilderness or people and I do like each of the illustrations as it really added to the story, making it feel more dark and emotional.

We Were Wolves book page image three
©The Strawberry Post

Overall this is an interesting book which turned out quite different from what I first thought it would be.  It’s certainly a more gritty tale and one which is a satisfying read, albeit darker and sadder than you might have wanted it to be.  But I like the positive ending for the boy, and the fact that despite everything he’s been through he is narrating his story.  The story is dark, there are some deaths mentioned and some dark things happening.  There is also a use of the s swear word and some deaths.  However it’s an interesting book and I’m now eager to read the author’s next work Running with Horses, which is a sequel to this tale!

Read the sequel Running with Horses by Jason Cockcroft by clicking here.

This review was featured on Twinkl in their article ‘Best Horror Books for Kids’.

What do you think of this book?  Do you like books with illustrations in them?  Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂