I think that Reisz has the potential to be a great writer.
Tripping to Somewhere was one of those books that’s flawed in ways that make it, for me, more exciting and more interesting than a lot of books that are technically better constructed. So I was half-excited when I saw Unleashed on the processing shelf – I didn’t even know he had a new book coming out. And a werewolf book at that!
Misty is a poor, biracial girl who has discovered the one ray of light in her dead-end life: magic mushrooms. Mushrooms that allow her and her friends to transform into wolves. Daniel is a little better off, by no means rich, but his family has scrimped and saved to allow him to get a college admissions counselor. He ends up bowing to family pressure and getting a fake ADHD diagnosis to get more time on the SATs and – eventually – admission to Cornell. They meet, strike up a romance, and soon Daniel is part of Misty’s wolf pack, torn between the freedom he finds there and the life his parents have planned for him.
There are a lot of fascinating themes and ideas here. There’s the decay in Birmingham, Alabama, the “rot-eater god” of the magic mushrooms, which is resonant and beautifully depicted. And there’s the conflict between wildness and civilization – which is much clunkier, I thought. The idea that the majority of people are shallow, civilized, boring and bored, is a dumb high-school conceit. It’s an utter cop-out. You can’t dismiss the majority of humanity as “hand-lickers” that easily.
Generally, the book is weighed down by lumps of exposition, way too much telling instead of showing, way too little subtlety. And it lacks the crazy, reckless energy that redeemed many of the faults of Tripping to Somewhere. Still, it did show flashes of brilliance. Still, I think Reisz will be a great writer someday.