Wednesday, May 5, 2010

16. Wolf Rider

Plot Summary
Andy Zadinski is new to Madison. He's an average 15 year old, and on an average night, a horrific phone call changes his life forever. The phone rings three times before Andy answers and hears the chilling voice of a man who calls himself Zeke. Zeke confesses to Andy that he has just murdered a woman named Nina Klemmer. Andy is shocked but keeps Zeke on the phone so that his friend Paul can call the cops in order to trace Zeke's call. Andy remains calm and is able to persuade Zeke to reveal more details about the murder. Andy learns that Nina was a student at the local college, around 5 feet six inches tall, thin, with dyed black hair. Zeke wanted to take Nina out, but she repeatedly refused, so Zeke felt the need to punish her. Zeke confesses to entering her home and stabbing her to death while she pleaded for her life. Suspecting the call is being traced, Zeke hangs up before Andy can find out any more details. Andy becomes obsessed with the call even though nobody believes that the story could possibly be true, not the police, not his father, and even his best friend Paul has doubts about the credibility of the call, but Andy is convinced otherwise.

Andy realizes the extreme odds of a killer randomly dialing his home number. His number is not listed, and the only person his father gave their number to was his secretary at the college where he works. Andy can't let the phone call go, even when the police inform him that no murder or missing person's cases have surfaced. While browsing through a Madison College directory Andy discovers that Nina Klemmer attends the university, and Andy makes it his responsibility to warn her about Zeke and the horrific call. Andy calls her, then tracks her down in the library, and her description is exactly as Zeke described. After following a series of clues, Andy suspects that college professor Phil Lucas is in fact Zeke, and when Andy tries to prove it, he finds himself caught up in the horrifying storyline he knew was true all along.

Critical Evaluation

Avi's Wolf Rider is a horrifying mystery that deals with the theme of obsession from both sides of the spectrum. When 15 year old Andy Zadinski receives a phone call from a man named Zeke who confesses to committing the murder of a student named Nina Klemmer, he becomes obsessed with the possibility that this call may be more than a late night hoax. Zeke details his obsession for Nina during his brief conversation with Andy, and goes over in detail how he brutally murdered her with a kitchen knife. Andy in turn becomes obsessed with the call and this obsession takes over his life for the next couple of weeks. Andy contacts the police and tells his father, but nobody believes his story. Readers learn that earlier that year Andy's mother was killed by a drunk driver, and the adults in the story suspect that this Zeke and Nina story is really just a cry for help. Andy realizes that if he is going to stop this murder from happening he has to do everything alone and in secret.

Piece by piece Andy puts together the puzzle surrounding the late night phone call. Readers follow Andy's detective efforts as he becomes more and more intertwined in Zeke's grim storyline. Each new break in the case brings Andy one step closer to meeting the man who's voice has been echoing in his head through the long and endless nights. Avi pens a quick pace for this tale of supsense, by sectioning his story into an array of short stabbing paragraphs, that often leave readers with a cliffhanger feeling as new evidence is revealed. Avi also adds to the horror of the story by alternating between both Andy's and Zeke's perspectives of the unfolding events. The suspense builds until the novel's conclusion, which may leave reader's scratching their heads as to what Avi's intentions might have been. Both Andy's and Zeke's obsession reveals a haunting side of the human condition that leads to disastrous outcomes. Andy's silenced cry will resonate with teen readers who are used to being ignored by adults and authority figures. This lack of concern from the adults in the novel at times borders on the comedic side, but the results of their lack of concern makes the effect even more chilling. The grim subject matter and murderous plot make this novel suitable and more enjoyable for a much older teen audience.

Reader's Annotation
The phone rings and the man on the other end has called to confess a horrible murder. This murderer isn't calling the police, he's calling you.

Author Information

Avi is the bestselling author of over 60 young adult novels and children's books. He spent the first 25 years of his career as a librarian and it wasn't until the birth of his first son that he started writing for children and young adults. Avi is a unique author in that he works in a variety of genres, including: mystery, comedy, sports, fantasy, historical fiction, and horror. His writing has won numerous awards including the Newbery Medal for his historical fiction title Crispin: Cross of Lead (2002), and a Newbery Honor for Nothing but the Truth. (1991).



Curriculum Ties

Book Talking Ideas
Did Andy make the right decision in pursuing Zeke?
Do you think the depiction of adult behavior in response to Andy's story is accurate? Why do you feel adults are quick to discredit teens, and how does that make you feel?

Reading Level
Grades 9+ (The vocabulary and story are an easy read, but the horrific undertones of the murder are more suitable for high school students and older readers)

Challenge Issues
violence, murder

Challenge defense ideas:
1. Make sure you are familiar with your library collection and the book in question.
2. Be familiar with your library collection policy.
3. If possible, speak with the person challenging the material and make sure they feel comfortable. Ask the customer what they disliked or disapproved of in the resource. If they still insist on challenging the material give them instructions on how to file a formal complaint.
4. Research professional reviews that speak to the material's merit, and get input from teen readers on why they found the book important.

Reason For Selection
I wanted to include a mystery title somewhere in my blog, and after reading the first couple of pages of Wolf Rider I was hooked. Wolf Rider opens with a horrifying phone call between a murderer and a teenage boy whom he happened to call. The idea of receiving a phone call from a murderer out of the blue was something I found shocking, and before I knew it I had read the first couple of sections while still standing in the young adult section.

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