The Wicker King by K. Ancrum (review)
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Reviewed by
Ancrum, K. The Wicker King. Imprint, 2017 [352p]illus. and with photographs
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-250-10154-9 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-250-10156-3 $9.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 9-12

August and his friend Jack share dysfunctional family experiences and they’ve practically raised themselves. It’s taken its toll, however: August has become addicted to setting fires, while Jack is showing signs of a serious mental illness. August resists getting medical help for Jack; his plan is to help his friend by believing in the world Jack is hallucinating, thinking that if he can help Jack complete his imaginary quest the visions will resolve themselves. As the boys drift farther away from their other friends and into Jack’s delusions, August’s pyromania becomes part of the quest scenario, and the boys end up hurt, arrested, and in a psychiatric ward. There, Jack gets the help he needs, while August’s codependent yearning for Jack intensifies. Their emotional tie, while clearly dysfunctional, nevertheless shows signs of real love and deep need. The narration is broken into poetic vignettes with evocative titles printed on gradually darkening pages, and it is textured throughout with spot art, photographs of the two beautiful boys, images of mix CDs, handwritten notes, police reports, and a newspaper clipping that introduces an element of magical realism into the mix of the boys’ deteriorating connection to reality. Give this to readers who like complex, experimental fictions about intense relationships that acquire mythic resonance.

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