A Room Away From the Wolves is an atmospheric, unique story set in an old boarding house in New York City. It follows a bisexual Jewish girl who is trying to leave behind an abusive home situation.
This is an odd, quiet, slow-paced gem of a book, unlike everything I had ever read before, and surprisingly difficult to review. I almost feel like I should reread this to do it justice, to absorb it better, but for now I’ll write how I feel about it at the moment.
If you’re always looking for weird YA books, especially if you like atmospheric stories with a mystery element, I definitely recommend A Room Away From the Wolves. I feel like I could describe it as Vassa in the Night meets The Gallery of Unfinished Girls, because it has some things in common with these books (which are two of my favorite books of all times; I read this one just because it reminded me of them), but it’s entirely its own thing, its own kind of weird.
However, if you’re the kind of reader who likes well-defined plotlines or even just clear answers, I want to point out that you’ll find none of them here. A Room Away From the Wolves is a story about moving on and second chances from the point of view of a very unreliable narrator who is deeply in denial.
I really liked reading about Bina. She is a lost girl who almost feels as if she’s trapped out of time, and her narration reflects that. She feels distant, she doesn’t question things the average narrator – or even the reader – would, she doesn’t feel real. Usually this wouldn’t be a good thing, I would say that the heavy writing overshadowed the characters and their development, but that’s not what happened here. The distance is intentional, and it adds to the story and the mystery.
Everything about this book is intentionally ambiguous, and in a way it works.
I have a weakness for stories about magical buildings, especially if their magic affects the way time works. Here, I saw something similar, and I loved everything about the magical aspects. Another thing I really appreciated was the lack of explicit romance, even though I totally believe Bina and Monet’s relationship wasn’t completely platonic. Seeing the open ending, I have all my theories about their futures.
Also: all relevant characters were women, and I liked that.
I loved this book. The only reason it’s a 4.5 and not a full five is the fact that – unlike the two other very weird books I mentioned before – it didn’t make sense emotionally. It’s difficult to describe without spoiling, but this is the kind of mystery book with a really interesting plot twist that, instead of making you see the story in a whole new light and making you understand the message, just confuses you further. Cool plot twist (which I suspected, by the way), now what’s the point?
Maybe rereading this I would see everything differently, but that vague conclusion – while consistent with the tone of the whole story – wasn’t really satisfying to me.
I recommend this to those who like books about complex mother-daughter bonds, stories with no romance, and lyrical, atmospheric writing.
My rating: ★★★★½
[Trigger warnings for: suicide attempts, suicidal ideation, parental abuse, abusive siblings, beatings]