Depicting the teenage troubles in Emily Fridlund’s “History of Wolves”

With the initial premise that presents itself as a typical coming-of-age novel, Emily Fridlund’s “History of Wolves” proves that there’s a lot more to the loner in high school hallways.

Tracking the desperate attempts of protagonist Linda, who is trying to belong, this book shows the lengths some would take in order to fit in with a community.

Linda is a teenager living with her family on a failed hippie commune and is ostracized for this in school. She’s only able to find a friend in a recently-hired teacher who is later convicted for the possession of child pornography.

Startled by this, Linda then directs her need for connection toward a family that moved across the northern Minnesota lake where the commune is located. What follows is her slow insertion into the family dynamic of what she feels is a “normal” home life.

However, it’s slowly revealed that the “normal” household she’s trying to belong to is actually a little more insidious. Her desperation to belong demonstrates the grayness of an aspect of humanity that we all may think is morally black and white.

This can especially be seen in the rapidly decreasing health of the family’s child, as the parents refuse to get medical help because of ideological reasons.

Emily Fridlund’s debut novel, which was released Jan. 3, was a successful look at morality and companionship. She shows moral ambiguity with the dark and intimately revealing tone of some of the best Gothic writers of the 20th century.

Possibly its most successful aspect is the perfect match of the narrator’s personality with Fridlund’s narrative style. The character’s morbid curiosity mixed with continued disappointment created a character that was almost emotionally detached from every aspect of herself except the desire to belong.

The detachment of the character seems to be a throwback to teenage angst that many people can clearly remember going through in their high-school years, which makes this an interesting read for many college students.

In addition to this, the book’s progression of events can seem separate from the established plot, which makes this a confusing read for the first third of the book.

Emphasizing this confusion is the continued reference of certain characters that didn’t seem to have enough development. Whether this is supposed to be because of Linda’s detachment from those character’s lives or because of bad characterization, I don’t know, but ignoring those negative aspects of the book, this novel can be an extremely telling show of the depravity of a teenager’s need to belong.

I would recommend this book to anyone with a psychology, secondary education or sociology major looking to understand what to expect when teenagers begin navigating an increasingly menacing world.

For anyone looking to understand the mind of a teenager in the grips of an intense need to belong, this book may reveal exactly what you’re looking for and more.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars