WOLF IN WHITE VAN by John Darnielle (Review)

Wolf in White Van

207 Pages

This is another one of those reads that’s been on my TBR for awhile, so while in NYC, I managed to pick it up at The Strand and read it almost entirely between train rides!

Here we go.

Isolated by a disfiguring injury since the age of seventeen, Sean Phillips crafts imaginary worlds for strangers to explore. As the creator of “Trace Italian”-a text-based role-playing game that’s played through the mail-Sean guides subscribers through his intricately imagined terrain, turn by turn, as they search out sanctuary in a ravaged, savage future America. But when Lance and Carrie, two teenaged seekers of the Trace, take their play outside the game, disaster strikes, and Sean is called on to account for it. In the process, he is pulled back through time, toward the beginning and the climax: the moment of his own self-inflicted departure from the world in which most people live.


So, the concept behind this is very interesting, as almost none of the actual story takes place in the present, even though it’s being narrated from the present. Sean lives his life with his disfigurement, and a lot of the story is him going back and telling the story of what actually happened to him. In recovery of what happened, Sean creates a mail-in game that people can subscribe to and mail ins responses called Trace Italian (almost like an RPG). When a couple of kids take the game too seriously, he ends up in a lawsuit.

To start with the negatives, I would have to say my major complaint about this is that I wish there had been more details about the lawsuit and the details behind what actually happened to the kids. While you get little snippets and some small details about what actually went down, I do wish it had been a little more detailed, and would not have been mad if that resulted in an extra 100 pages.

Now, to the positives.

The writing is absolutely brilliant. I am absolutely in love with Sean as a character and are sad this is the only narrative we may ever see him in. His story about his disfigurement is heartbreaking, and all of the details of family life are heartbreaking as well as the encounters he gets in to. Most of the story, as stated before, is told with flashbacks, and it’s very cool to see how all of the puzzle pieces fall into place, and how the game of Trace Italian came to be.

There really isn’t a lot to say about this without giving too much away, but if you’re looking for a quick read with a super interesting character and story that really makes you look at things from a different perspective, then I would recommend this.

Sean is an incredible character, and this story had me flipping through pages, not ever really wanting to put it down. Wolf in White Van is definitely going to find long time residence on my shelf.

Final Rating

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Overall, I really, really enjoyed this one. I would highly recommend you buy it here, or check it out from your local library.




3 thoughts on “WOLF IN WHITE VAN by John Darnielle (Review)

  1. Pingback: 3 Best & 3 Worst Books of 2018 – Page to Page

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