My rating: ★★★★✰ 4
The Wicker King was a quick and vivid read. Rather than chapters, this story is told through snippets: a page or two showing us one particular moment of August’s life. These brief glimpses perfectly bring to life each of the scenes/moments they portray: they are very visual, focusing on impressions and fleeting feelings. Pictures, scribbles and photos all add to the narrative. Some of the things we are shown – such as detention notes or medical notes – tell us things that August doesn’t. As our characters – August and Jack – are no longer able to hide their troubles the colour of the pages shifts from white to black.
Ancrum’s technique and style are very visual: she almost seems to adhere to a certain ‘aesthetic’…and it really works. It is so very effective. It makes both the characters and her story really stand out. August, Jack and their surroundings are all rendered through this language that is visual.
The story follows August: a teenager in the early 2000s, living with a severely depressed mother, selling drugs to other students to make ends meet. He is secretly best friends with Jack, a much more popular student, who is a jock. August wants to keep their friendship outside of school, given that they are on opposite end of the social spectrum. Despite his ‘I don’t give a fuck’ attitude August cares deeply about Jack, and readily admits that he would do anything for him. So, when Jack starts experiencing increasingly frequent hallucinations, he stays by his side, offering his help when Jack starts believing that his ‘other world’ is real. Things don’t go as planned. August’s tries – and fails – to avoid the repercussion of his own actions, putting both himself and Jack in danger.
This was very much a story about an intense friendship between two young people who are neglected by their parents and by the adults around them. They seek in one another what they can’t find at home or at school. Their relationship becomes a lifeline: the pressure is such that it makes it skewed.
So, in short, I loved this novel. As simple as that. Two scared young teens are left to cope with things they shouldn’t. For better or for worse they stick together. Their almost toxic and passionate relationship is beautifully rendered in this lovely novel.