Content/Trigger Warnings: Severe neglect, abandonment, depictions of depression, panic attacks, anxiety, underage drinking, drug dealing, mentions of divorce (in the past), scenes of stalking, scenes of physical harm, brief allusions to death of a parent, starvation, allusions to trauma/PTSD, toxic relationship, arsony, ableist speech
“The world was so big and they were very small and there was no one around to stop terrible things from happening.”
I have been sitting on this review for a couple of days and over those days I have been unraveled, put back together, over and over again. In the most beautiful, heart-clenching, breath hitching way, the kind of way that only a book can. I have said this a few times, but K. Ancrum is truly a blessing and I will probably worship at that alter forever. This book is everything. I loved The Weight of the Stars with my whole heart and The Wicker King was just as enthralling.
In 2003, two boys are seen breaking into an abandoned toy factor, landing both of them in an asylum. However, our story doesn’t begin there, some details need to be filled in and we see just that. We’re taken back to the very beginning where we watch the dark and intense events unfolding that lead them to this abandoned toy factor, and their destination of the asylum. With mixed media to help craft a story that feels too chillingly real, as our story unfolds and events become darker, the pages begin to turn black as night to take the reading experience to another level.
But our story really follows two high school boys from Michigan, who are both from extremely neglected home lives, in different ways, and find the way to fill the holes in each others’ hearts with one another. Told from the perspective of August, we see Jack slowly form hallucinations and how he’s able to see into a dark fantasy world that somehow coexists with our own world. August does everything he can to assist Jack, but August is struggling too. Fighting with his own mental health, August isn’t listening to those around him who are trying to help him. To August, Jack is the only one who can make everything better, and to Jack, August is the only one who can seem to ground him during these scary times.
“But your best is not good enough sometimes. Sometimes… you have to stop trying and just let someone else try their best. In order to survive.”
Let me be clear, Jack and August do not have a healthy relationship. It’s a very toxic relationship that almost kills both of them. However, their relationship is so realistic and in a world that has made them feel so alone, they’re what each other desperately need. And as someone who has been in a relationship like this before, I was sobbing and breaking. Sometimes it’s a relationship like this that keeps you afloat when you feel like you’re drowning in the middle of the ocean even if it’s not the healthiest for you. And you can’t help wanting to help these characters, to help them feel better, and when they both start to spiral, intertwining with one another, it’s devastating and gut-wrenching.
“My mom once told me that being alone makes you feel weaker every day, even if you’re not.” he said quietly. “But it’s not as bad if you’re with other people who are alone, too. We can hold each other up like a card tower.”
And then there’s Rina, a side character and person of color, who is such a wonderful beacon of light in this book. She is so pure, she loves these boys, so damn much and provides these two lost boys with a safe haven. Rina truly was a blessing in this book and I love her so damn much. You don’t realize till the end of the book, but Rina really makes a difference in August’s and Jack’s life in more ways than one. I don’t think any reader will be able to help themselves from falling in love with her character.
As I mentioned earlier, mental health is a key part of this book and I loved the way Ancrum wrote the depictions of mental health. Most of the time or at some point in time, people like to assume mental health is black and white, and that’s not the case. Sometimes mental health is silent and hidden behind worrying for others. Other times it can be loud and fierce. And the author delivers a plethora of versions of mental health. You can tell how much the author put time and care into these depictions, whether from research or their own experiences.
“If you drop the weight you are carrying, it is okay. You can build yourself back up out of the pieces.”
This book is also immensely queer and I love it to pieces. It’s that subtle kind of love that you have to read between the lines to see. Not to mention the sexuality is so diverse. August is either bisexual or pansexual because we see him have intimate relationships with Rina and another side character. Jack also has a relationship with a female side character before he ever clarifies to August how much he loves him. And don’t get me start on some theories I have!
Overall, this book wrecked me in the best way possible. I loved this book so damn much and there aren’t enough words to express that. K. Ancrum truly is a blessing and no one is doing it like she is. I don’t know what we did to deserve Ancrum, but they are truly a blessing to us all. This is not a light story, but I feel that this is so important especially for mental health representation. I just love this book so much and I’m just going to lock this away in my heart forever. This is truly a gift and I want to put it in everyone’s hands!
“I love you and we don’t need the other world to keep that. It’s just true, It always has been. In this world and the next. They could take everything away and leave us with nothing, and I would still love you.”
2 thoughts on “The Wicker King (The Wicker King, #1) by K. Ancrum”