Friday, September 28, 2012

REVIEW: The Night Wanderer

Today, I’m posting a YA book review to support the A More Diverse Universe Tour to raise awareness and celebrate People of Colour Speculative Fiction Authors. You can read more about this tour on the blog BookLust - Aarti’s site and see a list of all participants.
When my friend, Dale Lee Kwong, asked me if I planned to participate in the blog tour I thought, ok, here’s an opportunity to expand on my reading habits. So, because I’m Canadian, I decided to seek out a Canadian writer who might qualify. The YA list was small but when I saw that Canadian-Ojibway writer Drew Hayden Taylor wrote a teen book about a 350 year-old aboriginal vampire, I was in!
The book is called The Night Wanderer. It has a spirited and wry sixteen-year-old character named Tiffany and a weary, soul-seeking vampire named Pierre L’Errant who returns from Europe to his birthplace on what is now a First Nations reserve in Ontario. Three hundred and fifty years ago he was a curious, adventurous teen who left his land and family to cross the Atlantic with French fur traders. In France, he contracts an illness that should have killed him but by a twist of fate he’s bitten on the neck and he becomes a bloodthirsty vampire. But now he’s back – to save his soul, and in a strange way, to save Tiffany too.
Tiffany lives with her father, Keith, and Anishinabe grandmother, Granny Ruth, on the reserve. Her mother has abandoned the family and lives with a white man in another part of Canada. Tiffany has a white boyfriend, Tony, but when they’re out shopping he takes advantage of her tax-free status card. In a nutshell, Tiffany’s life is about as happy as a whole lot of other teenagers’ lives in North America: she lives in a town where nothing happens; her mother has abandoned her; her father is angry all the time; she fights with her boyfriend; she’s bullied; and she is failing History. But what Tiffany has that most teens don’t have is a father who rents out her room to a stranger who sleeps all day and wanders the land at night.
“Tiffany was close enough to smell the mustiness coming off the vertical green carpet. The first thing she noticed was that there was no light coming from the room. Only darkness. This in itself was not all that unusual, considering it was a windowless part of the basement. Still, it was an odd darkness, like the difference between Coke and diet Coke. It was … unusual. There was still no sound so she decided to chance it and take that peak. Why, she didn’t know. Her hand brushed the border of the carpeted door as she began to push it aside.” page 98, The Night Wanderer

The Night Wanderer is expertly written in a third person voice that tells the tale with a tense yet comic touch. Tiffany’s self-deprecating humor is a highlight that makes this character unforgettable. The vampire is formidable and admirable in his struggle to fight his hunger while he contemplates longingly the land of his birth. The gothic vampire myth is served well here by the Northern Canadian landscape. The land is dark and shadowy. There are noises in the forest. Animals scurrying. Twigs and branches breaking. Long roads and a deep lake. The reserve is a mysterious but not menacing place as it is home for both Tiffany and Pierre – two native Canadians who are struggling for clarity and expression of their true selves.

Taylor explores many themes in his 200 page novel: coming-of-age, prejudice, bullying, family, education, history, aboriginal language, and suicide. This isn’t a book for readers who expect a more traditional vampire tale with sexual overtones. Instead Hayden writes a smart tale about a smart teenage girl, an aging vampire, and what happens when they meet in the middle of a dark Canadian forest.

Drew Hayden Taylor is a well-known Canadian-Ojibway playwright, author, journalist, filmmaker, and stand-up comedian from the Curve Lake First Nations in Ontario. He is a writer who’s committed to educating the world about issues that impact the lives of Canada’s First Nations. The Night Wanderer, Taylor’s first teen novel, was published by Annick Press in 2007. Read more here
A little more ... here's an image of Edvard Munch's The Night Wanderer: