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Under My Skin: Wildlings, Book 1
Charles de Lint
Triskell Press / Razorbill, 288 pages

Under My Skin
Charles de Lint
Charles de Lint was born in 1951 in Bussum, the Netherlands, and emigrated to Canada at the age of four months. He now lives in Ottawa. He published three novels under the pseudonym Samuel M Key which have subsequently been reprinted by Orb Books as Charles de Lint. Many of his later stories center around the mythical North American city of Newford and a regular cast of characters that make cameo and feature appearances. He has received many awards including the 2000 World Fantasy Award for Best Collection for Moonlight and Vines. He has also published a children's book, Circle of Cats, with artist Charles Vess.

Charles de Lint Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Very Best of Charles de Lint
SF Site Review: Dreams Underfoot
SF Site Review: Widdershins
SF Site Review: Triskell Tales 2
SF Site Review: Moonlight and Vines
SF Site Review: Quicksilver & Shadow
SF Site Review: The Wild Wood
SF Site Review: Mulengro
SF Site Review: A Handful of Coppers
SF Site Review: The Onion Girl
SF Site Review: Forests of the Heart
SF Site Reading List: Charles de Lint
SF Site Review: Jack of Kinrowan
SF Site Review: Moonlight and Vines, A Newford Collection
SF Site Review: Someplace to be Flying

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Sherwood Smith

Under My Skin My first encounter with Charles de Lint was through Moonheart which, with Emma Bull's War for the Oaks, ignited my love for urban fantasy. Over the years since then I've talked with many young people who came to fantasy via de Lint. Whenever he writes something for younger readers, I flagged it for classroom use.

This fast-paced tale for older teens takes off fast with first person narrator Josh, a normal surfer teen in a coastal California city, until his mom's abusive boyfriend attacks him. Josh turns into a mountain lion and mauls the guy, then races off in a complete panic until he meets another animal human.

Josh has become a Wilding, a shape-shifter who can switch back and forth between his animal shape and human. For some reason it's been happening to local teens, no one knows why -- including the older Wildings, hitherto living under the radar as far as the outside world was concerned.

Josh's chapters trade off with those of Marina, Josh's best friend, who has a few secrets, one of which is her crush on Josh.

Josh, Marina, and a surfer named Desmond are best buddies. They have a band, though they haven't played for anyone but themselves, or even picked a name. They surf and skateboard together. Marina is not the only one with a secret crush, but somehow they've found a delicate balance, as friends do when they want to remain friends. That balance is threatened when Josh goes straight to them once he recovers his human self. He confesses the truth to his friends, but he is scared to tell his mom, even after she dumps the abusive boyfriend.

The supposed attack of a mountain lion at Josh's home and his having gone missing sparks media attention, which in turn sparks social and authority attention at Josh's high school, some of which is deadly serious. Josh has to cope with that, with his new ability, and further with meeting a Wilding girl, Elzie, with whom he shares instant attraction.

Meanwhile, the FBI shows up and starts stalking everyone as they try to 'contain' this mysterious occurrence, and to use their own methods to figure out what's happening. Josh tries to keep his head down and act normal, not easy when he has to deal with escalating secrets and their consequences.

And that's when he gets snatched.

The pacing goes ballistic at that point, and stays at a thundering clip to the end. I liked the characters (especially the fact that not everybody is white bread, which is true to most SoCal high schools today), I liked the true-to-teen entanglement of secrets and emotions, and how the kids tried to deal. The whole Wildings thing is exciting, well thought out, and while this tale ends on a satisfactory note (yay!) there are plenty of questions left open for a series. (Also yay!)

There is some teen sex, but it's true to the age, handled matter-of-factly and not graphically. More graphic was one horrific scene that would have disturbed me as a younger teen, but mileage varies on these things: as always, adults ought to read it first and decide whether to share it with their kids. I know I would have loved this book as a high schooler, and I would have no hesitation recommending it to my son. (And this book might actually be a way in for boys to read urban fantasy.)

Copyright © 2012 Sherwood Smith

Sherwood Smith is a writer by vocation and reader by avocation. Her webpage is at

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