Published by Imprint on October 30, 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
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Jack once saved August's life . . . now can August save him?
August is a misfit with a pyro streak and Jack is a golden boy on the varsity rugby team--but their intense friendship goes way back. Jack begins to see increasingly vivid hallucinations that take the form of an elaborate fantasy kingdom creeping into the edges of the real world. With their parents' unreliable behavior, August decides to help Jack the way he always has--on his own. He accepts the visions as reality, even when Jack leads them on a quest to fulfill a dark prophecy.
August and Jack alienate everyone around them as they struggle with their sanity, free falling into the surreal fantasy world that feels made for them. In the end, each one must choose his own truth.
Written in vivid micro-fiction with a stream-of-consciousness feel and multimedia elements, K. Ancrum's The Wicker King touches on themes of mental health and explores a codependent relationship fraught with tension, madness and love.
After hearing my friend Cait rave about this book, I was super excited to pick it up when I saw it at the bookstore. Thankfully I listened to her, because The Wicker King is definitely one of a kind.
Two co-dependent boys
I’ve read a lot of books that deal with mental health, but I’ve never quite encountered one like The Wicker King, that portrays an unhealthy, co-dependant relationship with one person who clearly has the upper hand. There’s no doubt that their friendship is problematic, but you can’t help but fall in love with both of the characters – Jack, who increasingly sees and believes his hallucinations and August, who is hopelessly tied down to looking after Jack. Being in August’s head, you can definitely see how much he cares about Jack, denying his feelings for him, while participating in reckless behaviour like drug dealing and pyromania as an outlet.
Every part of the human condition is packaged neatly in fairy tales. Eveery bit of culture that makes us who we are.
An evolving mystery
At the end of the day, these are two boys who have absent parents in the worse possible way, who have no one else to rely on but each other (and in Jack’s case, for food and shelter). The way their relationship evolves over the course of the book is definitely worrying, but there’s that mystery element to Jack’s hallucinations about the Wicker King that you can’t help but want to find out more about. Does Jack have a mental illness? Will he ever get treated? Will August find help for the two of them? Will August ever admit his feelings? I had so many questions while I was reading, and thankfully, the book does not disappoint.
This is definitely a dark book, even when it deals with the romance as well. I say that in light terms, because August clearly has feelings for Jack, but he’s not sure if they’re reciprocated as sometimes Jack becomes scarily possessive over him. August dates a few girls in the book as well and I couldn’t help but wonder whether these two were going to ever admit their feelings for each other and have a happily ever after. It was great to see the bisexual representation through August’s relationships and feelings. This definitely isn’t a fluffy sort of book when it comes to any aspect of the plot.
You’re the most precious thing in the world to me. They’re trying to make you forget that. Don’t let them make you forget it.
I also loved the unique formatting of the book, which makes it worthwhile getting your hands on a physical copy if possible. As things get murkier for Jack, so do the pages of the book eventually fading into white text on a black background. There’s also a few excerpts and photos within the book that translate really well on paper.
For a book that is dark, intense and features two flawed, lonely boys who have a co-dependant relationship with one another, The Wicker King definitely captured my attention. This book is completely underrated and I hope more people who are interested in mental health reads and bisexual representation pick it up!
Rating: 5 out of 5
Trigger warnings: pyromania, mental illness, child neglect, drug use.
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