Tristan Bancks latest book is an intense novel for younger readers. Ben is a chubby, thoughtful, insecure 13 year old. His world is filled with the escapism of online games and stop-animation film-making, where he controls the action. From the first chapter we can hear in Ben’s voice that he is unsure about his family, can recognise that they are poor, and that there is an undercurrent of hopelessness and anxiety about his life.
One afternoon the police come to the Silver’s front door, and Ben’s parents get home from work shortly after the cops leave. They bundle Ben and his sister, Olive, into the car, and take off on a ‘holiday’. Ben’s misgivings at this turn of events is palpable. He knows that they aren’t well-off – hell, he can’t even go on school excursions because they’re so poor. And when they swap cars at Uncle Chris’ – Ben’s anxiousness goes up another notch and continues to rise.
Bancks handles the increasing tension really well. This is not an action-thriller, but each of the events that increase the tension are believable and well-written. Olive’s particular brand of stubborn defiance is wonderfully written, and the sense that you get of the siblings becoming closer over the course of the story creates a hopeful feeling in an otherwise bleak situation.
The two wolves of the titles comes from a Cherokee Indian story, quoted as a preface to the story. Ben is faced with moral and ethical choices all along the way. Whatever he chooses (no spoilers!) he has to live with the consequences – and his own thoughts.