Book Details

Harper Collins Logo

A.V. Club Best Book

ALA Alex Award

Boston Globe Best Book

Gawker Best Book

Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction

National Book Award Longlist

About the Book

Welcome to Trace Italian, a game of strategy and survival! You may now make your first move.

Isolated by a disfiguring injury since the age of seventeen, Sean Phillips crafts imaginary worlds for strangers to play in. From his small apartment in southern California, he orchestrates fantastic adventures where possibilities, both dark and bright, open in the boundaries between the real and the imagined. As the creator of Trace Italian—a text-based, role-playing game played through the mail—Sean guides players from around the world through his intricately imagined terrain, which they navigate and explore, turn by turn, seeking sanctuary in a ravaged, savage future America.

Lance and Carrie are high school students from Florida, explorers of the Trace. But when they take their play into the real world, disaster strikes, and Sean is called to account for it. In the process, he is pulled back through time, tunneling toward the moment of his own self-inflicted departure from the world in which most people live.

Brilliantly constructed, Wolf in White Van unfolds in reverse until we arrive at both the beginning and the climax: the event that has shaped so much of Sean’s life. Beautifully written and unexpectedly moving, John Darnielle’s Wolf in White Van is an audacious and gripping debut novel, a marvel of storytelling brio and genuine literary delicacy.

Educator and Librarian Resources

Critical Praise

A stunning meditation on the power of escape, and on the cat-and-mouse contest the self plays to deflect its own guilt. —New York Times Book Review (Editor’s Choice)

[A] strange and involving novel . . . about alienation and despair and the search for meaning. . . . What drives Wolf in White Van is Mr. Darnielle’s uncanny sense of what it’s like to feel marginalized, an outsider, a freak. —New York Times

The prose is spare yet fervent, both distant and rawly exposed, making for an eerie, awkward and compelling novel that immediately demands a second read. —The Guardian

A quietly devastating book that’s not easily forgotten. —Winnipeg Free Press

In Darnielle’s novel, as in his songs, the monstrously true and unbelievably beautiful press up against one another. Together, they begin to dance. —NPR

The next logical step for someone who’s filled 14 studio albums, 23 EPs, and four compilations with relatable characters, dramatic situations, and recognizably literary themes like spirituality, drug addiction, and more. . . . Wolf in White Van is the work of a real writer. —Pitchfork

An electric debut novel with the sweetest ruminations on Conan the Barbarian ever written. —O Magazine

[Wolf in White Van] will back you onto your heels with its capacity for inventiveness in structure, story, and line-writing. —GQ

Sean’s life of minutiae, from simple charcoal drawings hung on the wall to terrible, Conan-inspired cassette tapes, makes his character come to animated, imperfectly perfect life. This attention to detail, this humanity, makes the book a joy. —Paste

The prose is often cryptic and then stunningly clear, microscopically specific and then audaciously grand. The words soothe for sentences at a time, then strike with blunt force. —Slate

A pop culture-infused novel that thoughtfully and nonjudgmentally considers the dark side of nerddom. —Kirkus (starred review)

A delicately written first novel, poignant and sinister, that probes the creative and destructive potential of the imagination. —Sydney Morning Herald

In a very fine novel full of darkness, sudden moments of true and good light are as rare as they are welcome, even wondrous. —Financial Times

A quietly bracing novel about the power--but also the isolation--of an overactive imagination. Without becoming sentimental or excessively bleak, Darnielle has created an empathetic character study: sustained eye contact with a person from whom most would avert their glance. —Bookforum

One of the year’s most captivating character studies. —A.V. Club

The best rock novel of the year. —Rolling Stone

Brilliant. —Chicago Tribune

Excellent. —Vulture

Incantatory. —Publishers Weekly

Possibly the best novel of the year. —Chicagoist

A tremendous literary achievement. —ZYZZYVA

A dark, nerdy delight. —The Stranger

A novel that unspools rather than reads. . . . Darnielle has a masterful way of putting the reader in the position of reverse engineer. . . [His] is an art that spins pain into gold. —Hairpin

[Wolf in White Van] unfolds like a labyrinthine treasure map, one in which the treasure chest keeps moving but you’re careening toward it regardless, and also you’re a little scared of what you’ll find when you get there. —San Francisco Bay Guardian

One of the most intense reads of the year . . . surreal, emotionally explosive, and often weirdly funny. . . . Nothing is more terrifying, and more honest, than a story that acknowledges that there is no bright line between guilt and innocence. —io9

Wolf in White Van will provoke you, and interest you, and move you. —Open Letters Monthly

This puzzle-like book, riddled with pulp allusions, proves Darnielle’s narrative skill. —Time Out New York (Four Stars)

[A] powerful novel . . . Darnielle layers invisible causation, or mechanisms of denial, or signs of an unstable personality, into the narrative with enviable subtlety. . . . An impressive achievement. —Full Stop

Beautifully written psychological fiction for sophisticated readers, with not much else like it out there. —Library Journal

Although if anyone can evoke literary elegance over three minutes of chords, it’s Darnielle, there is a slow-building circuity here that even the most introspective pop song would be hard pressed to sustain. —Quietus

Through deft construction and well-earned empathy, Darnielle has crafted a memorable character who is guided through the darkest patches of his life by an inner intensity that burns like a magnesium flare. —The Masters Review

Product Details

  • ISBN: 9781443437387
  • ISBN 10: 1443437387
  • Imprint: HarperCollins Publishers
  • On Sale: 09/23/2014
  • Pages: 224
  • List Price: 19.99 CAD
  • BISAC1: FICTION / General

Wolf In White Van by John Darnielle

The broadest selection of online bookstores. The links will take you to the web site's home page.

Other Booksellers

The broadest selection of online bookstores. The links will take you to the Web site's home page.

SELECT:

International Customers

If you are located outside Canada, the best way to order online is to choose from the following bookstores listed by region and country.

HarperCollins Reader

We created the HC Reader App to be a simple way to read our e-books. Our App is available for download on iOS and Android devices.

We strongly encourage using the HarperCollins reader application since it supports the type of file we are using. You may experience some technical difficulties using a different reader application.

Instructions

  1. You need a HarperCollins Account. If you purchase/have purchased an e-book from HarperCollins, this is your account login and password. If not, please click here to register.
  2. Download the HC Reader App on iOS or Android. Enter your HarperCollins account username and password. Please note that your username is an e-mail address.
  3. Download your e-book and enjoy!