When Damien was nine, his parents died in a car accident and Damien went into foster care. He was completely unbalanced and his life was turned over and around. Damien was moved from house to house in a few short years as no one gave him the care or attention he needed. When he was moved to the McKenzie’s house, things only got worse as they were physically abusive to Damien. Damien had nowhere to hide so he tried to spend as much time outside as he could. That’s where he ran into the Salgados.
The Native American Salgados are as much a part of the town as they are a part of the woods they run through. Damien has seen the Salgado kids at school, but they ignore him like everyone else does. Until the full moon shows Damien that while the Salgados are a family, they are also a pack. Damien has longed to escape and just knowing about the Salgados allows Damien’s imagination to run free.
The Salgados slowly make Damien a part of their family. Damien knows he doesn’t fit with them and he doesn’t belong with them, but Hakan, who is two years older than Damien, makes Damien’s blood race. The boys develop a tentative friendship that turns to heated passion as they navigate being at university together. To Damien, Hakan feels like home, but Damien’s scars run deep and Hakan will really have to step up and show Damien that he truly belongs with him and with the pack.
This book was a lot of things. Some of it worked for me and some not as much, but at the end, I was left with an overall disjointed feeling. The book starts when Damien is nine and his parents have died. He is harshly put into the foster care system and none of his caregivers have any interest in truly helping him and the psychological abuse starts. When he is brought to the McKenzie’s home, the physical abuse starts as well as they think the best way to control Damien is to tie him to the chair or the bed. The abuse is not gone into in great detail, but it’s enough to set the tone for what it does to Damien’s mind and opinion of himself.
When Damien learns that the Salgados are shifters, he takes it in stride and feels special that he has learned of this magical world. Mostly though, I felt far removed from this book. At times, there was a poetic narrative woven into the story, but I felt that the book couldn’t decide what it wanted to be. There were passages that read as folklore as Damien learns the history of the Salgado pack, but it was rambly, dry, and textbook like and could have used an edit to keep it either on track or more intriguing. Damien is also the narrator and sometimes the feel was that the scenes were directly his experiences. However, a good portion of the narrative was above his age and it came across as being written without regard to the age or experience of the actual character. Other times, it read like someone else was talking about Damien and the pack, while still other times it read as if Damien was recounting part of his life. Also, there was no indication where this book took place. The Salgados are said to be Native American and there is one reference to one small happening taking place, ”A few states over.” Yet, the dialect and choice and spelling of words was not at all American and I would have liked to have been able to place where this story was set.
It is a coming of age story as well as Damien grows into his crush for Hakan who at first doesn’t appear to return his feelings. We never are given the chance to really know Hakan and there was never an indication of what he was feeling or going through. Damien has casual relationships along the way as even when Hakan shows interest in him, Damien thinks it’s just temporary. Damien’s relationship with Hakan was only shown through Damien’s POV, which was not at all the full story and again it didn’t resonate due to the execution.
Damien did resonate with me at times, but mostly I kept being taken out of the story. So much of this story was abstract that the parts that were brought into clarity didn’t seem to fit and I felt a great distance between the characters and the story. There were moments where I did appreciate what the author was trying to do with Damien, but ultimately there were too many issues that make it difficult to give this one a top recommendation.