Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George is one of the books I chose to review for banned books week. It is often challenged for violence and being unsuited to its intended age group. It is #32 on the ALA most challenged of the 1990s list.
Y’all, I thought the plot of Julie of the Wolves was fascinating. Julie (or Miyax, her Eskimo name) has run away. She is 13, and already married. Her husband has some sort of mental impairment and he attacks her, threatening rape (this is the violence loser book banners complain about). She takes off into the wilds of Alaska, hoping to make it to California to live with her pen pal. She ends up inserting herself into a pack of wolves in order to survive.
Julie of the Wolves is split into three parts. The first section has her meeting and getting to know the wolf pack, and details the things she does in her day to day life out on the tundra. I found this part a little slow. I much preferred the second bit, which is a flashback to her childhood spent in seclusion with her father up to moving in with her husband and his family. Seeing her growing up and interacting with people was much more interesting to me.
The third part switches back to her present life with the wolves – but it doesn’t drag as much as the beginning did. It dealt more with the struggle Julie faces as she is caught between two worlds: being a traditional Eskimo vs. embracing a more modern worldview.
I really liked Julie’s character. She is very devoted to her heritage and the traditional Eskimo way she was brought up by her father. She is intelligent and an extremely quick thinker. She reacts well in crisis and is a very loyal friend. Her independence and determination make her a great heroine for younger readers to admire.
While it won’t be making my favorites list, I do think Julie of the Wolves is a memorable story – definitely great for middle grade readers. So y’all, screw the folks that try to ban it by recommending it to the younger crowd! (The ebook is only 99 cents for the time being.)