Winterfolk – Janel Kolby – HarperTeen – Published 6 February 2018




A gritty yet beautiful debut novel about a homeless teen who relies on the magic she sees in the world around her to help her find her place, perfect for fans of Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap

Rain is a homeless teen living with her father in the woods outside Seattle, near a community of other homeless people called the Winterfolk. She finds safety and sanctuary in this hidden world—until the day that safety is shattered when she learns the city plans to clear the woods of everyone who lives there. Now she’s forced to confront Seattle, which is full of strange sights, sounds, people—and memories.…

My thoughts

How shall I describe this book? At once both hopeful and sad, gritty and yet filled with magic, Winterfolk pairs the harsh reality of homelessness with a magical, lyrical writing style to create an ethereal novel about love, family, belonging, acceptance, and community.

Rain lives in the Jungle, the forest outside of town that shelters the Winterfolk. Rain knows how to be invisible, living with her father, King – who is friend, protector, everything – and a collection of souls who use the forest to take what protection they can to hide from the world. When the Winterfolk’s home is threatened by destruction, Rain knows her home is in danger. On Rain’s fifteenth birthday, King takes her into town. But a simple trip to see what lies outside the protection of their trees becomes a life-changing journey.

Winterfolk is a novel that deserves the time it takes to really sink into the story and join with the unique characters. Rain narrates the story and so everything is viewed through her perspective and individual style. She has a strong imagination and she uses it to view the world in a way that is different from how everyone else sees. At first, her family and friends, those around her, only humour her, indulge her fantasies because it helps her get through each day. Yet, as the story develops, it is Rain who makes the changes. She relies on others, especially King, for food, water and protection, but it is Rain who can make the biggest difference in both her own world and the world that extends outside the borders within which she has always stayed. And so, Winterfolk is the story of a girl finding her voice and discovering its power.

The writing style is what stands out in this wonderful book. It is almost like free verse poetry, which makes sense since the author is a poet. This realistic story borders on magical realism, but that’s only because of the writing style and Rain’s wonderful imagination. Winterfolk is unique and a little different from my usual reading fare, but I enjoyed it as it stretched my perspective and challenged my views.

If this book makes you take notice of your surroundings a little more, makes you look up and really see, then perhaps it has achieved its purpose.

The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.

More information

Category: Young adult fiction.

Genre: Contemporary.

Themes: Homelessness, community, social issues, family, friendship, relationships, belonging, survival, housing, safety, money.

Reading age guide: Ages 13 and up.

Advisory: Occasional coarse language,  f*** (3), sh** (4), sl** (2), as***** (2), pi**(2). Vague sexual references, vague references to erotic dancing/prostitution. Drug references. Violence.

Published: 6 February 2018 by HarperTeen.

Format: Hardback, ebook. 320 pages.

ISBN: 99780062487001

Find it on Goodreads