Developing characters, Amy Norvell-Wonacott
Devolve: The Wolf
Devolve: The Wolf is a curious little book of hidden clues, mysteries, and suspense, told through his main character Foren, who has lived underground since a final war brought the world to an apocalypse. Mike Hooper tells this tale from Foren’s perspective, employing a professional yet casual style through his writing which brings a note of solemnity while convincing the reader to settle comfortably down and engross themselves within the pages.
The world Foren lives in is called The Burrows. Within it, the charming King Brown struggles to support his society with dwindling supplies from the surface, where the water is polluted and the very air is toxic. When students become 16, they take a test which will decide their future as a Cat – the smartest – a Wolf – the strongest – or a Bug – the analytical. Foren’s mother was a famous Cat, and he expects to follow in her pawprints, but instead is chosen as a Wolf. The book follows him and his squad – which consists of Casey, Vici, Essix, Alex, and Geo – as they explore the ravaged surface for the first time. Along their travels, they uncover a dark conspiracy and are torn apart, each member fighting for their own survival in the hostile world.
Hooper’s characters are fairly simple at first glance but, as the stories progress, their personalities become more intricate and complex, showing where their loyalties lie and what they fight for.
Take Geo as an example, or GO according to Hooper’s naming system. From the beginning, the reader is led to believe he is a belligerent and scornful character, living a solitary life which suits his selfish intentions. When he and his squad – which consists of Foren, Casey, Vici, Essix, and Alex – reach the near middle of their journey, Foren becomes suspicious of his motives, wary for good reason, as he strikes out at Vici, robbing the others of the bulk of their supplies. But he shows an unexpected display of guilt after the moment, apologising for harming Vici: “Geo can’t help but notice how roughed-up Vici is, regardless of the fact that he keeps trying to divert his eyes. ‘Sorry,’ he mumbles, ‘but I needed to do that.’” This stroke of conscience leaves the audience confused; is Geo really as bad as he was portrayed through the beginning of the book?
The experiences the characters go through change every one of them, eventually leading to an unpredictable climax, when Foren must take the fates of others into his own hands and decide what is best for The Burrows’ society. Hooper explores the relationships between the last characters and delivers the zenith of the book wonderfully, with one of Foren’s friends having to choose between her family and what she believes to be right. Turning a blind eye to her father’s secret work for most of her life had unseen effects and, in the final confrontation between him and Foren, she accepts her father for who he is.
Despite this, she chooses the alternate path and stays as the two of them are separated, because she realises the risk to The Burrows. It is these complex choices that Hooper creates that draw the reader in and allow them to connect with his characters.
Though Devolve: The Wolf does have an unfinished, if not mysterious ending, it is needed, as it leaves the reader wondering what will happen in the next two books. (Yes, Devolve: The Wolf is part of a trilogy, with the next book in the series, Devolve: The Bug coming out early in 2017.) Given Hooper’s extraordinary flair for ingenious plot twists and surprises, there is no telling what will happen in the next two books, and the way the actual ending is written hints at more to come, with a banished authority figure still alive and the mysterious force living somewhere on the surface.
My single critique for this book is the small, improper uses of punctuation. With myself an avid reader, I had to stop and re-read the sentences, which disrupted the flow of the story. This isn’t a huge flaw, nor is it a dire problem, and it only occurs less than 10 times in the book.
Although Devolve: The Wolf had small issues, the book was cleverly thought out and written, with complex characters and an imaginative world to boot. Hooper describes the surface with an almost childlike tenderness, but its innocence soon vanishes among the battles for survival. I personally look forward to the next two books and the realities they will bring.
As for Devolve: The Wolf, my final judgment is that it is a novel of survival, of conflict, but lastly of truth, of hope.
Amy Norvell-Wonacott is 15 years old and from Whakatane.